Saturday, 16 December 2017

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Aladdin at the Bristol Hippodrome and The Playhouse Theatre in Weston-Super-Mare

We sometimes forget that as well as being a family entertainment, pantomime is a serious competitive business with productions doing their best to attract rave reviews and audiences which can be critical to the financial success of a venue for the whole year. Large venues that can attract large audiences, have bigger budgets for headline casting , special effects and more promotional impact than their smaller local rivals. This is only too clear when you see Aladdin within a few days at both the enormous Bristol Hippodrome with a Qdos production starring Joe Pasquale and at the much smaller Playhouse, Weston Super Mare with an ensemble cast.

The Qdos offering relies almost entirely on Joe Pasquale's high energy squeaky voiced madcap persona, as he does his best to make the rest of the cast corpse and on the amazing Twin FX special effects including King Kong, a giant Cobra, elephants, pandas and a flying carpet with 2 passengers that turns upside down. It is spectacular and amusing but at times the pace slows and the humour is laboured. 

A few miles down the M5, the Playhouse's in house production is a more rounded complete pantomime with a script packed with many quick fire gags, a cast of eight principals who work seamlessly together and a bright colourful sets and costumes. Written and directed by Mike Goble who also plays Wishy, it features David Rumelle as Twankey (doing a very good Dame Edna impression), a wonderful Rebecca Hazel as Jasmine and John Altman as Abanazar. 

The best comedy routines include an excellent "apple watch" routine as the Emperor (Gareth Davies) works out to a succession of short pop song extracts, a clever laundry routine about returning the washing to their customers ( Mr Who, Mr Me , Mr You, Mr What , and Mr I'Dunno) as well as the traditional ghost routine which is a standard of almost every show and an old fashioned sand dance.

Despite the budget limitations , the show features a well executed flying carpet
routine as Aladdin (Daniel Slade) flies high up into the proscenium arch and out over the orchestra pit. 

Not all the jokes landed in this morning schools matinee: Dynasty, for example was long forgotten before most of the audience was born but it is part of the joy of a Pantomime that machine gun delivery of gags means not all land with every audience member everytime. It must keep the cast fresh and on the toes responding to the audience and this helps drive the show along.

There is no doubt that both these productions will do their job for the venues, and if you can see both you should. Otherwise unless you are a big Joe Pasquale fan , the Playhouse Aladdin provides you the best value for money!

Review by Nick Wayne 

Bristol Hippodrome: ★★★

The Playhouse Theatre: ★★★★
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