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Sunday, 15 December 2019

REVIEW: Aladdin at the South Hill Park Arts Centre

One of the real joys of seeing a wide range of Pantomimes is visiting the smaller venues where the creative teams work real magic with small budgets to delight their local community. One such venue is the Wilde Theatre in South Hill Park near Bracknell. Not resting on their laurels after last year's GB Pantomime Award nominations for best script and set designs, so clearly trumpeted on their handbills and poster, they set out to go even bigger and better this year with Aladdin. Victoria Spearing, last year's winner of Best stage design, has this year gone used her inventive imagination to create a huge set that magical transforms with a minimum of effort from Old Peking with false perspective, to the desert and pyramids of Egypt with an amusing simple flying sequence in between. She makes a virtue of having no flying capacity by using five multi sided trucks all artistically painted with delightful touches to amuse and intrigue. It is a truly magical setting and the Egyptian interior is exquisite. 

Within these settings the strong cast work hard with a well drilled and disciplined young ensemble to bring Joyce Branagh's traditional script to life, although on the adult only nights there are few more near the knuckle ad Libs to amuse the well lubricated members of the audience - hopefully out of ear shot of the younger cast members! Brad Clapson returns as the larger than life, over the top, outrageous Widow Twankey and dominates the stage when he is on. It’s a drag queen performance rather than a Dame but it gets plenty of reaction and laughs.
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