Preview: Aladdin, Old Vic, Bristol

Pullman's magic lights up the lamp
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The Independent Culture

Bristol Old Vic's production of Philip Pullman's Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp has been "given the blessing" of the author. "We sent him a few drafts, and he has made brilliant detailed notes on it," says Simon Reade, the theatre's artistic director, "particularly where we got too carried away inventing too much of own material that was beginning to get a bit Chekhovian and psychologically inappropriate for an adventure story."

Reade adapted the book with Aletta Collins, who was associate director on the National Theatre staging of Pullman's His Dark Materials. It took six months to complete the adaptation: "Pullman had stripped the story down; we had to flesh it back up again."

Reade adapted Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children and Ted Hughes' Tales From Ovid for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (best show for young people, TMA Awards 2005) and Private Peaceful for the Bristol Old Vic. Collins has a background in dance and choreographed the West End musical Jesus Christ Superstar and the National's production of Honk!, winner of the 2000 Olivier for best musical.

Here, Aladdin is played by Danny Worters, who appeared earlier this year in Henry IV with Michael Gambon at the National. The Sorcerer is played by Robert Gwilym, remembered for his long-running role as Dr Max Gallagher in Casualty. Nicole Charles, who appeared in A Raisin in the Sun at the Lyric Hammersmith, plays Princess Badr-al-Badur, while Mia Soteriou is Aladdin's mother. She appeared in The Odyssey at the Bristol Old Vic and the Mike Leigh film Topsy-Turvy.

"Pullman's Aladdin - just like the tale of Lyra in His Dark Materials - is a story about a child who grows up and challenges adult authority," Reade says. "Although Aladdin has this wonderful tool - the enchanted lamp - he learns to take responsibility for himself. It doesn't come easily to him."

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