sat 02/03/2024

Aladdin and the Twankeys, York Theatre Royal | reviews, news & interviews

Aladdin and the Twankeys, York Theatre Royal

Aladdin and the Twankeys, York Theatre Royal

Berwick Kaler, 35 years a panto dame, delivers his fourth Aladdin

Aladdin insane: Berwick Kaler (second from right) and the cast of 'Aladdin and the Twankeys'Robert Day

The best bit is the Wagon Wheels. Frisbeed, they are, towards the audience's outstretched arms and expectant faces, with the precision of a man who's been doing it for the past 35 years, with the assurance of a cult hero whose presence continues to dominate the York pantomime tradition.

They love Berwick Kaler here (seriously, how many local celebrities have ice sculptures of themselves admired in their city centre?) and the affection is mutual. "This isn't a pantomime, it's a family reunion!" declared the writer, co-director and indisputable star of Aladdin and the Twankeys, which is, remarkably, his fifth version of the classic tale, following 2005's The Lad Aladdin and previous productions in 1997, 1989 and 1981. As Britain's longest-serving pantomime dame earlier quipped to a crowd member who claimed to have attended his shows for the past decade: "Oh, a newcomer, are you?"

Granted one wish, the audience wouldn't changed a single aspect of this show

Joining Kaler for this memorable festive knees-up are regular favourites Martin Barrass - who has spent much of 2013 appearing in the West End production of One Man, Two Guvnors - in the dual role of Wisehopper and Mankee, Suzy Cooper as Princess Peke-a-Boo, Sian Howard as the Empress of China, AJ Powell as the Genie of the Bling, Jonathan Race as the villainous Abanazer (pictured below), and Canadian actor Alexander Braatz in the title role of Aladdin.

The two golden rules of pantomime - daftness and naffness - are impeccably observed, along with the cheeky puns and in-jokes that had our hands red-raw from all the clapping. There are, however, a few unexpected breaks with tradition. For starters, there is actually a plot, in which Abanazar seeks out China's oldest man to guide him to Aladdin, the Chosen One, whom he believes will lead him to untold riches - before discovering that Aladdin has an identical twin brother (who looks nothing like him), while the Genie of the Bling keeps knocking himself out and waking up thinking he's someone else. OK, a plot-ish.

Stunning costumes and surreal, anarchic sets are far, far too good, and several video montages of the cast's comical musical escapades around York make this certainly the first multimedia pantomime I've ever seen. Plus, a cameo by Christopher Biggins - currently gracing Hull New Theatre's stage in Jack and the Beanstalk - simply cannot go without mention.

I suspect that if members of the audience were granted one wish, they wouldn't changed a single aspect of this show. (In any case, I think I may have used mine to make myself invisible when Kaler began scouring the audience for a "volunteer".)

After one final sing-song, Kaler bids his spirited followers farewell. "See you all next year!" he says, and they will - for this veteran entertainer's camaraderie with the cast, audience, venue and city adds an extra dimension to this seasonal treat of all seasonal treats. Across the country right now, homesick minor celebrities sit in dressing rooms, crossing dates off their performance calendars. Not here, not ever.

Across the country homesick minor celebrities sit in dressing rooms, crossing dates off their performance calendars. Not in York, not ever

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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