Last night saw Central Hall host PantoSoc’s first panto of the year; Aladdin. The protagonist’s claim that “it is not about the destination, it is about the journey” seems to encompass the magnitude of the cast’s adventures and the never-ending groan inducing puns produced on the night. However, the dismissal of the “destination” perhaps foretells the disappointment the audience will feel when the ending is upon them.
The panto deviates from the original plot of Aladdin and combines a moody, hung-over, Radiohead-loving genie with characters such as Clara Loft, Facebook and a villainous mime artist. The creativity of the characters provided a constant stream of witty and slapstick comedy from all angles. Whilst the performance maintained panto traditions, namely the Dame and panto horse, the four suitors; Prince Charming, Prince Farming, Prince Calming and Prince Non-Conforming provided a refreshingly humorous take on the tradition. The four characters enriched the play with sexual innuendos and social stereotypes; with the Non Conforming Prince’s dislike to anything “mainstream” being a favourite of the audience.
Standout performances were the villainous duo Abanazar, played by Rhys Hayes, and good girl gone bad The Princess, Emma Gallacher, who in an unconventional twist dominated the stage together; and echoed the hall with their harmonising evil cackles. Matthew Lecznar as Aladdin injected his character with zeal and zest but perhaps, at times, confused the role of a brave protagonist with that of a slapstick comic lead. Aladdin’s love interest on the other hand, played by Lily Cooper, provided a consistent counterpart with acute comic timing and the best vocals of the night with her rendition of Cee Lo Green’s “F*** you.”
The chorus, or Abanazar’s “henchmen,” consisted of strong cameo performances. A mention to Mike Everard who created giggles with his Wikipedia character and perfected sobs and Alexander Voss-Boyall who embodied the “legally a vegetable” role with great comic value. The vocals I’d sooner rather forget but this is inevitable with the inclusive mantra of pantomimes.
Aladdin, on his quest to save the kingdom, faces obstacle after obstacle, on top of more obstacles, perhaps contributing to the audience’s restlessness in the second half of the performance. The constant struggle to achieve the “happily ever after” perhaps reaches an anti climax when the showdown between good and evil results in the villains surrendering the lamp in order to conquer the world the hard way.
Nonetheless, the pantomime embodied all that a pantomime should. It combined tradition, it was personal (the shocking statement that “Central Hall hasn’t changed” causing hysteria) and it was damn right silly. Aladdin took us on a “journey,” and in touching with the corny nature of pantomimes, reached a “destination” in the form of the departing audience’s smiles.