tue 16/07/2019

Aladdin, New Wimbledon Theatre review - enjoyable but underpowered | reviews, news & interviews

Aladdin, New Wimbledon Theatre review - enjoyable but underpowered

Aladdin, New Wimbledon Theatre review - enjoyable but underpowered

Paul Merton makes his pantomime dame debut

Paul Merton gives a laidback performance as Widow Twankey Photographs by Craig Sugden

Paul Merton has a lot of strings to his bow – stand-up, improv artist, historian of silent-movie-era comedy, quiz-show panellist, to name a few – and now he adds pantomime dame to his CV. He has appeared in television pantos before, but this is his first live outing, as Widow Twankey in Aladdin. What took him so long?

After a hesitant start, Merton's command of the role grows and he throws in the odd line to keep the company on their toes (he is credited with supplying extra material for panto veteran Alan McHugh's script). His laidback Widow Twankey is less showy, in voice and costume, than most dames, but has some cracking lines. She declares herself “the biggest scrubber in the area”, one of several saucy gags that went over young heads while delighting the adults. One of his costumes is there just to provide the punchline to a gag. He comes on dressed in a giant Chinese takeaway package with overflowing noodles – "I'm in the middle of my dinner" – and the moment lends a surreal touch to the proceedings.

Merton's banter-filled scenes with comic magician Pete Firman (as Wishee Washee) produce many of the show's highlights, while another is Merton's masterly resume of the show so far – a neat reference to his appearances on Radio 4's Just a Minute, speaking without hesitation, repetition or deviation.

But, save for Linda John-Pierre's spirited Empress (and cracking vocals) and Adam Pearce's Abanazar, who interacts to great effect with the audience at every opportunity, the rest of the show is enjoyable but underpowered. The romance, for what it is, is realised by Lee Ryan (pictured right), who is not entirely on top of his role as Aladdin, and Lauren Chia's sweet but no pushover Princess, who is underwritten.

Kerry Michael's direction keeps things moving along, although the show's second of two 3D sequences is much too long; youngsters around me were shifting in their seats. And it's a shame that at a family show adults rather than children are called up on stage to help Firman with his magic tricks.

  • Aladdin is at New Wimbledon Theatre, London SW19 until 6 January 2019
He comes on dressed in a giant Chinese takeaway package with overflowing noodles


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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