Theatre review: New lamps for old

LEGAL NOTE: Please do not publish articles about the alleged dangers of aspartame without contacting the legal department and the aspartame information website



Toby O'Connor Morse

ALADDIN

SALISBURY PLAYHOUSE

THIS IS the time of year when actors, suffixed by the title of the current hot television property, stagger into the floodlights to test their rusty theatre skills. But if you were worried that traditional pantomime had been relegated to the village hall, be cheered to know that there is one corner of the land still uncontaminated by the mediocrity of commercialism, where jobbing actors demonstrate their mastery of stagecraft without relying on cheap gimmicks and cheaper fame.

Salisbury Playhouse's Aladdin is traditional to the tips of its turned- up shoes, refusing to rely on lavish effects or topical trivialities. There is little here that would not have been familiar - and entertaining - to an audience a century ago. Some things (such as moonlight and love songs) are never out of date, and this truly traditional entertainment has the Playstation generation on the edge of its seats screaming with delight.

The composer Kate Edgar's tunes lean heavily on past musical styles, particularly the musical's heyday of the Twenties and Thirties. Musically speaking, this verges on "Beansprout Salad Days", but is all the more appealing for it. Edgar's experience on Return to the Forbidden Planet is evidenced in her cull from the Fifties and before, producing a programme of new yet comfortingly familiar foot-tappers.

The cast also lend a contemporary edge to the characters. Rachel Matthews's Princess replaces the usual aspartame-flavoured principal girl, all drooping femininity and coy downward glances, with a tough cookie who's gagging for it. Dale Superville's blue-romper-suited Genie of the Lamp crosses the frenetic india-rubber convolutions of Jim Carrey's Joker with the chaotic energy of the Things in Dr Seuss's The Cat in the Hat. Meanwhile, Simon Egerton sweeps all before his melodramatic cloak as the baddest baddy of them all, Abanazar, a refined and eminently hissable wizard with a strong feel of Laurence Olivier about him. However, this production's strength lies partly in the power of the ensemble. Another reviewer on another night could lavish equal praise on three other actors. Shining through Colin Wakefield's script and Edgar's direction is an intelligence that has considered the child's-eye view, including enough gags aimed at the shortest-trousered audience members to prevent their attention from wandering. There is constant interaction across the footlights, and an ample smattering of well managed and eagerly contributed audience participation. It takes a slightly ironic sense of humour to make one of the biggest audience shout-outs the word "Mummy"; oh, how they can bellow that!

The final test of any pantomime is its ability to appeal to a vast age range. From engrossed four-year-olds through cheering teenagers to smiling adults, Salisbury's Aladdin appears to enrapture everyone. It's rare that any production genuinely deserves the title of "a show for all the family". But this does.

To 16 January (01722 320333)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices