Panto Review: Three wishes for Aladdin

The first law of panto is that it must contain a former cast-member from either TV's Hi-de-Hi! or TV's 'Allo, 'Allo. The production of Aladdin at the Hackney Empire hits the jackpot: it's got one of each.

It's also got what all the best pantos have - an ability to juggle elements which appeal both to children and adults. There is nothing quite like the sight of a child clasping her mouth in a vain attempt to suppress her excitement as the curtain goes up.

The girl in front of me on Thursday night spent the next two-and-a-half hours in a state of frenzy that made the the fans at Gladiators look restrained in comparison. In between booing and cheering she leapt around like an acrobatic wicket-keeper catching sweeties hurled out by the cast, whooped at Widow Twankee's (Barry Howard) striptease, wagged her giant foam finger at the wicked Abanazar (John D Collins), and emitted many a bellowed "oh yes it is".

But the adults had no need to feel neglected. Dennis Waterman, whose first entrance as Wishee Washee was accompanied by the dulcet tones of the theme from The Sweeney, provided a string of jokes for the benefit of those of us old enough to remember the first time that series was broadcast.

As a courtier intervened to try to prevent the marriage of the Princess (Jayne Collins, from TV's Baywatch) to Wishee Washee's brother, Aladdin (Patti Boulaye), Waterman turned on him and shouted "Shut it" in his best Detective Sergeant Carter voice. The phrase - resurrected by a recent hommage in a car commercial - was greeted with knowing applause.

Later, the Emperor (Tim Willis) said to Wishee Washee, "I'm sure I know your face from somewhere". Pointing at the Emperor's TV aeriel-style hat, Waterman replied: "do you mean you can get Sky on that?"

As is always the case in panto these days, the script relied too heavily on unimaginative references to television and pop. But the proof that director/adaptor John David had pitched his production at just the right level came in a scene near the end where Wishee Washee called six children on stage individually to sing a verse of "Old MacDonald". The children in the audience loved seeing their peers squirm, while the adults just got high on the "aah" factor.

The recent Channel 4 series, Pantoland, showed the pyrotechnical lengths to which some productions will now go in order to dazzle the audience. The Hackney Empire's resolutely un-ritzy production demonstrated that you don't have to reconstruct the Seven Wonders of the World to grip children. The energy of the cast is far more important than the expense of the set. Oh yes it is.

Hackney Empire, London E8 (0181-985 2424). Until 4 Jan.

Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

    £6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    Day In a Page

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing