Family days out over Christmas and the new year are not complete until you’ve ticked off a trip to the panto – “oh no they’re not!”
Whether you’re a fan of festive shows (that’s me) or don’t really get them (that’s H), a trip to the pantomime still has plenty of magical ingredients to entertain everyone.
Now usually three-year-old Cyrus is tucked up in bed by 7pm on a Friday evening “Oh yes he is!” However last night, we all went along to the Tyne Theatre in Newcastle for the launch of Enchanted Entertainment’s production Aladdin, which runs from now until 5th January 2020.
Gracing the festive boards this year are Newcastle’s home-grown talent Hannah Wales as Princess Jasmine, soap stars such as Home and Away’s Nic Westaway as Aladdin and Hollyoaks’ villain David Easter, as the wicked sorcerer Abanazar. X Factor runner-up Marcus Collins is also cast as the Genie.
It was little C’s first time at the theatre and for that reason this show was extra special because it reminded me of my first pantomime experience in 1979 seeing David Jason as Buttons in Cinderella. I was only four, but after that, panto became a firm fixture on our family’s calendar at Christmas time.
Aladdin set in ‘Peking on Tyne’ (I loved this) offered little C a multi-sensory adventure complete with flying carpet, bubbles in the auditorium, smoke and fire crackers on stage and a cast that was a whirlwind of energy.
Chris Casserly was brilliant as Widow Twankey and was everything a panto Dame should be – big, bold, brash and colourful. A real diva crowd-pleaser who came complete with the most ridiculous outfits and some killer moves.
And where would the annual Tyne Theatre panto be without stalwart Charlie Richmond ? Now in his 11th year, he was perfect for the role of Aladdin’s silly brother Wishee Washee. Full of Geordie wit and silliness, it’s not surprising that little C mistook him for BBC’s Mr Tumble. He can certainly entertain a nursery school crowd with audience interactions that were delightfully playful.
Chris and Charlie are a pairing that work really well and it’s fantastic to see them on stage together. The messy laundry washing scene and monster scene were a sheer joy to watch.
Highlights of this year’s pantomime for me include the electric dancing of ‘pop-up panto’ genie Marcus Collins to Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk, the Home & Away scene with Aladdin, Jasmine and Wishee and Aladdin’s magic carpet ride to Take That’s Rule The World which was spellbinding!
The show was packed full of catchy pop songs which certainly appealed to the young audience member sitting next to me. There were comedy capers with lines like “salam, salam, false salam” which were genius, captivating props, stunning dance routines and some new Brexit jokes thrown in for good measure – all backed up by great lighting, sound and costumes.
My only criticism if there was one, would be largely due to this age of political correctness we are in. As a sensitive soul, I did slightly cringe at some of the naughty gags and close-to-the-knuckle toilet humour while sitting next to an oblivious three-year-old.
Yes it needs to be a traditional pantomime filled with all the slapstick you can throw at it, but you also have to be a little bit mindful of the modern era of parenting which requires walking a fine line.
On a much more positive note, panto time is the only time these days when it’s OK to feed the kids sweets, ice-cream and cake and let them wash it all down with brightly-coloured orange juice!
For me, being able to enjoy a panto with my little family for the first time was really something special. It’s well worth a trip to see this year’s show, it has heaps of audience participation and you won’t be disappointed.