Panto Review: Three wishes for Aladdin

What really puts the magic into panto? Pyrotechnics, traditional values or the appearance of the odd soap star?

Bristol is in many ways the most rural and traditional of Britain's big cities. Meanwhile Bath is a city built on promises and image, where facade is everything - a city which focuses on marketing whilst frequently paying too little attention to the product itself. Although only 14 miles apart, a cultural chasm divides the cities. This goes some way to explain why their respective theatres Royal have decided to stage the same pantomime this Christmas. These are two very different interpretations which reflect very accurately the different characters of the two cities.

Bath's Aladdin is a commercial show filled with familiar TV faces. Overall, it has a feeling of a pantomime just going through the motions, a ragbag of comedy acts and set pieces glued together with a haphazard plot.

In three inch stilettos and a micro-tunic, Jenny Powell's Aladdin is less a Principal Boy and more the well-known Peking transvestite. Teamed up with Sarah Day's Princess in her Wallis cocktail dress, the star-crossed lovers resemble a couple of girls on their way to Stringfellows.

This is in stark contrast to Bristol's far more traditional production, where Amanda Villamayor's Aladdin delivers a healthy dose of all round boyishness and thousand megawatt grins. Combined with Princess Prue Clarke's sweeping dresses and droopy femininity, this provides the contrast which is vital to remove the sapphic edge from the central love story. The biggest differences, however, lie with the baddy and the dame.

Following on his TV success as EastEnder Pete Beale, Peter Dean's Abanazar is an Eastern mystic apparently born within the sound of Bow Bells, whose recipes include "oi of noot". But for all his growling and bizarre make- up, Mr Dean's performance fails to cross the footlights. Unlike Mark Buffery in Bristol, who presents a towering demon king who is pretty damn scary (and speaks in rhyme, like all baddies should).

Meanwhile, Old Vic stalwart Chris Harris's Widow Twankey is smutty, loud, over-made-up, and appears in an ever more exotic array of oriental fashions. In Bath, Nicholas Parsons just works his way through the Spice Girls wardrobe. He also spends too much time being Nicholas Parsons. In time he may stop slipping out of character quite so often, but at the moment it is painfully clear that even star names need adequate rehearsal time.

The BOV script is punchy and littered with slapstick. It's frequently parochial, playing to Bristolians' sense of place and local chauvinism, with the biggest cheer of the night reserved for a flying model of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. In Bath the lines tend to be wooden, the jokes have been salvaged from a cracker factory reject bin, and the songs are recent pop hits stuck somewhat incongruously onto the plot. There is a feeling of complacency, as if the presence of a few TV celebrities is all that is required for a good night out. Surprisingly, the special effects and the Victorian Oriental design in Bristol's home-grown production are considerably more impressive than those in the high hype commercial offering. And there is a warmth, a naturalness and a professionalism to the Old Vic's show which had the audience hollering with delight in a way which the Bath audience never even approached.

Like all Christmas tales, there is a moral, and it is this. When pantotime comes along, do not put your faith in star names and glitz. Go for the jobbing actors and the traditional pantomime. And to keep the kids enraptured and cheering, head for the pace and goop at Bristol Old Vic rather than the latest offering from the City of Blissful Mediocrity.

Bath runs until 25 Jan. (01225 448844).

Bristol runs until 31 Jan. (0117 987 7877).

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Cover Supervisor

    £75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

    Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

    Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

    SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

    £1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam