Prepare yourself for a festive treat at Venue Cymru. Aladdin is a Christmas cracker of a pantomime. We are talking high-end, top-of-the-range crackers as well, with decent jokes and quality surprises to boot. I can’t pretend that this was expected either. After last year’s production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – which was most certainly Poundland material – I was gearing up for an excruciating couple of hours. Yet how pleasantly surprised I was. With stunning scenery and some spectacular set-pieces, the production team have certainly pulled out all the stops. Add to this a fantastically well-gelled cast and you are most certainly on to a winner.
This is a panto steeped in tradition. There are plenty of boos and hisses for the villain. Lots of sparkle surrounds the fairy and the princess. There is also the eponymous dame, Andy Jones making a wonderfully hilarious Widow Twankey. Yet there is also plenty of creativity and ingenuity in this show. The special effects, in particular, lift this pantomime from standard, end-of-the-pier fare to breathtakingly good theatre. The carpet scene really is magic. There’s a truly terrifying appearance by a giant cobra. Even the elephant, taking on the renowned role of the pantomime horse, adds a comic touch of quality, albeit with realistic excrement left all over the stage.
It feels refreshing to congratulate not only the set designers but also the cast too. There was a genuine feeling that they were seasoned veterans, having done this panto lark together for years. Credit must go to Llandudno favourite John Evans in particular. Twelve months ago, I felt he overshadowed the rest of the cast; it was more like John Evans and Friends than a scripted performance. Here, however, his introductory stand-up routine was much shorter, fitting into the organic flow of the story and making him much more believable as the hapless Wishee Washee. Together with Luke Higgins’ groin-thrusting Aladdin, Andy Jones’ Twankey, and Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas as Genie, they help celebrate Evans’ tenth anniversary at Venue Cymru by providing laughs aplenty. In particular, there is an unforgettable rendition of Twelve Days of Christmas that will have you bowled over in tears of laughter.
Aladdin is a fizzling smorgasbord of colourful choreography, lively songs, and rib-tickling hilarity. If there is one trip you make over the Christmas period, make sure you set your sat-nav to Venue Cymru for a tasty treat.
Originally created as part of Venue Cymru’s Young Critics scheme.