Thursday, 12 December 2019

REVIEW: Aladdin at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

It’s not very often a show can pick you up and transport you back to the happiest days of your childhood; infact it’s less than “not very often”, it’s incredibly rare and quite honestly, I don’t think it has ever happened to me quite like this before. As I left Woking’s New Victoria Theatre, I was beaming and full of nostalgia and joy. Pure childish happiness and Christmas cheer. What more could you want from a Pantomime?

Before this review, I would first like to share a little story. Circa 2001, my parents took me backstage at the New Victoria Theatre and I met Bobby Davro before a performance of Cinderella where Davro was playing ‘Buttons’. Despite only being six or seven years old at the time, I still remember him being exceptionally fast-talking, funny and kind. He filled my pockets with milky ways and smarties before the show as I wouldn’t be able to reach from the Royal Circle when he would later throw them across the stalls during the performance. Almost 20 years later, I was finally able to meet him again after this show and with tears in my eyes, I proclaimed I had been transported right back to that purely happy and innocent time thanks to him. He truly is the soul of this pantomime - a born entertainer and genuinely lovely man. I cannot advocate his performance enough. Bobby, thank you for your kind words and humble ways. I hope we meet again soon. 

In this year’s glittering spectacular, Woking welcomes Aladdin; the tale of a young man who is madly in love with the Princess of his Kingdom. His absence of wealth keeps him from his true love but upon finding a magic genie he is granted 3 wishes and becomes a Prince so they may finally be together, happily ever after.

In addition to a magical genie, Woking gives us The Spirit of The Ring, played by Strictly Come Dancing favourite Brendan Cole. He is suitably charming and fun in the role with a wonderfully warm charisma and agile physicality, he played his audience well and won us all over very quickly! 

David Phipps-Davis plays Widow Twankey, and shines in this show, despite being weighed down by enormous wigs, cage skirts and.... bathtubs full of noodles (you’ll see for yourself when you buy your tickets!) We expect buckets of comedy from Twankey and are suitable gratified, however the cherry on top is this magnificent classical voice which rings through the theatre. Initially, I was unsure if it was pre-recorded vocals as it seemed just too good to be true, but no - he really is THAT good. Bravo, Sir! 

Fresh from Arts Educational Schools, we have Pearce Barron as the quintessentially cheeky chap, Aladdin. Barron gives us a sterling effort in his pantomime debut and superb vocals, particularly for the Act 1 finale which surpassed any expectations I had for this production. Truly magical! As his Princess Jasmine is Mischa Eckersley of CBBC’s ‘Four O’Clock Club’ fame. Wowza what a voice...! This production turns a typically damsel-in-distress Princess into a kick-ass woman in her own right and I LOVED IT. 

Puppeteer and ventriloquist Dawson Chance with his turtle friend, Willie also take to the stage as Chief of Police and.... his pet (I think)! His segments were wonderfully smutty and offered all the comic relief the adults had been waiting for! Brilliant fun... “Is it?!” (Two words I will never be able to hear in the same way again!) 

Woking’s Aladdin is packed to the brim with all you could hope for in a pantomime and more. What radiated for me was the sheer joy of the performers on the stage; it was infectious and elevated the entire audience up. I would go again tomorrow, I had so much fun and don’t doubt any family would too. 

Panto is so much more than glittery sets, sequined costumes and frantically physical renditions of carols.... (though Woking does offer us all of this!) It’s about fun, laughter and the pure joy of sharing an experience with your family at Christmas. 

Aladdin is the best pantomime I’ve seen in years and the cast know it too - they all light up that stage and beam joy directly to your heart. For goodness sake, book your tickets NOW! 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

Review by Harriet Langdown 

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Seat: H18, Stalls | Price of Ticket: £35.50 (Plus Booking Fee, Via ATG)
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