Scotland’s undisputed King of Panto, Johnny McKnight serves up the first treat of the holiday season with his disco-tastic, glitterball spangled version of Aladdin at the macrobert in Stirling.
There are afros, flares and platforms a-plenty as well as enough synthetic fabric to start a disco inferno as we boogie on down to Discotopia. Along with her two kids Wishee Washee (Robert Jack) and Aladdin (Dawn Sievewright), dear old Marge O’Reen Twankey (Andy Clark) runs the last launderette in town, the Dream Cuisine and Dry Clean, an establishment which does a natty turn in pies and bridies as well as washing and ironing.
Marge’s eldest Aladdin is in love with the campest prince in town (Martin McCormick) and as it ever was in Pantoland, the path of true love never runs smooth. In “the worst case of panto romance ever seen”, Aladdin and the blonde hair-flicking, disco-posing object of her affections encounter opposition and obstacles in the form of the Prince’s class-conscious mother (Helen McAlpine) and evil “Aunty” Lilith (a spectacularly clad and suitably menacing Julie Brown), and of course there’s the small matter of a rusty old lamp hidden in a deep dark cave.
As with the best pantomimes there’s as much here for adults as children, there are canny contemporary cultural and political references for the grown ups and the requisite number of slapstick, bum and bogie jokes for the teenies. The music too, manages to include the widest demographic, from 70’s disco and pop classics such as: “Lost in Music”, “Night Fever” and “We Built This City” albeit this time on sausage rolls not rock ‘n’ roll! through current hits: Pharrell’s “Happy” and a knock-out version of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” from Mrs. Twankey ( an hysterical Andy Clark) to the ubiquitous “Let it Go” from Frozen, which as well as being a sing-a-long favourite with the young audience, provides the perfect vehicle to highlight Dawn Sievewright’s stunning vocals.
McKnight eschews the ordinary panto fare and the writing remains clever and on-point throughout, never needing to resort to cheap smuttiness or crudity to get the laughs. There’s also an excellent take on the famous Abbot and Costello “Who’s on First” sketch, whose wordplay goes down a treat with the young audience,proving that classic writing never fails to be funny.
Complementing the writing is a truly outstanding cast led by some of Scotland’s most highly regarded and accomplished theatre actors. Andy Clark as our beloved dame, deserves a medal, not only for his comedy skills but for agreeing to wear Marge O’Reen’s eye-watering ensembles, all of which seem to feature a bikini!, each entrance is accompanied by gasps and in one instance a covering of the eyes in disbelief at what we are seeing. Robert Jack (a familiar face from the much-loved Gary, Tank Commander) is a revelation, his timing and physical comedy skills are of the highest order, managing to raise laughs even when he’s not at the centre of the action. Dawn Sievewright is a fabulously feisty Aladdin and her vocals are world class. Hilarious support is provided by Helen McAlpine (The Queen/Jeanie) and Martin McCormick (Prince Jasper) – there really is not a weak link anywhere in this production.
Mention must be made of the quality of the set design by Karen Tennent and the seamless transitions between the multiple changes, which would put most larger theatres to shame.
There’s no magic carpet here: “we’ve no got the budget”, but this Aladdin is all the better for it. This truly is a Christmas cracker, it’s a witty, wonderful, disco-tastic spectacular for the whole family – the perfect start to the festive season.
Runs until 4th January 2015
Tickets available here: http://www.macrobert.org/event/aladdin/