I love panto season, and for a long time now I’ve been desperate to take H to one. She has been to productions at school, but I fear those are watered down versions suitable for younger audiences – all fine, but we need proper pantomimes in our lives! Polka Dot Pantomimes have brought their production of Aladdin to the Secombe Theatre in Sutton, and today we went to see it.
Aladdin is a good safe pantomime to produce. The story works well and the more audience participation you can work into it the better. H had been excited all week, wondering how the genie would get out of the lamp – and it didn’t disappoint.
We made our way to the Secombe Theatre, our biggest local theatre in the Borough of Sutton, which has been under threat of closure (as has the Charles Cryer Theatre in Carshalton) – and what struck me was how the theatre *should* have had more people in there – where are people going? Why aren’t people making the trip? Especially when it’s an excellent production at a really reasonable price. Don’t get me wrong, the theatre wasn’t empty, but it wasn’t full either.
Aladdin was loads of fun. I’m a fairly harsh critic when it comes to pantomimes – being from York I spent almost every December in my childhood (and teenage, and later years) going to the York Panto – a long-term production by Berwick Kaler. You need a good dame and villain, slapstick, lots of audience participation, the old catchphrases and of course topically re-worded songs from current pop hits even indie snobs like me will have heard of as well as the obligatory singsong at the end. Aladdin had all these – and the cast did a marvellous job! Berwick Kaler has been on the BBC this week talking about the hard work behind a panto dame, and I’d agree – they carry the show.
H didn’t take long to warm up, once she got her head around shouting at the stage a lot (or booing) she was in her element. Behind us was Rosie and Boo who were having a brilliant time as well. Big brownie points go to Aladdin and Princess Jasmine singing ‘Love is an Open Door’ from Frozen, which H was beaming through – no lyric changes needed. In the second half the flying carpet sequence was nice and simple but had her captivated.
The baddie was a GREAT baddie – he played the part perfectly. There was the obligatory water fight (water pistols squirting us, the audience – hilarious!), plenty of ‘IT’S BEHIND YOU!’s and just everything that makes a proper old school panto feel right. Oh and of course, asking the audience for their opinion and having several under tens tell you exactly what you should do, just for the cast to completely ignore it and do the opposite (well, it wouldn’t be a panto if you didn’t)!
The humour worked on both levels – not too confusing for the kids, plenty of gags about Sutton, Cheam and Morden, and plenty of laughs for five year olds too. Merch-wise, programmes were £2.50 and the sparkly light options were £4 each – not too bad at all, and H loves hers!
Widow Twankey was excellent – as were Wishy Washy and the Genie. In fact, everyone was great. I have no complaints, and found it was a fine production. The final word goes to H though – “it was AMAZING!!”
I just hope the Secombe Theatre stays open so that productions like this can continue for future generations to enjoy.
Polka Dot Pantomimes have many productions up and down the country – check them out!
We were provided with free tickets for this performance. All opinions are my own. OH yes they are.