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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
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: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

    £25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

    Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

    £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

    £25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

    £25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas