Aladdin

Written by Fine Time Fontayne and Chris Lawson

Directed by Chris Lawson

Designed by Celia Perkins

Originally scheduled for 2020, Aladdin at Oldham Coliseum was reluctantly stored in its proverbial lamp until now. On Saturday night it burst forth with delight and relief as Chris Lawson and his team finally polished the production back into life. Aladdin the production is every bit as flamboyant and fizzing with energy and goodwill as the colourful Jinn of the Lamp, played with a psychedelic flourish by Marc Zayat.

Oldham Coliseum always delivers a festive production that is lovingly crafted to celebrate the tradition of Pantomime. Written by the theatre’s Artistic Director Chris Lawson and stalwart of Panto Fine Time Fonteyne this year’s show has a perfect balance of wholesome family entertainment full of irreverant banter that is genuinely funny but never offensive. Placed firmly in Oldham with lots of local references and of course a Panto villain from Rochdale the script is fast paced and fresh while retaining the classic ghost scene and the audience singing competition. Director Chris Lawson ensures that each scene rolls into the next like the pages of a much-loved storybook and this is ably abetted by Designer Celia Perkin’s delightfully colourful set, (The Cave of Wealth is especially beautiful and looks truly magical).

Richard J Fletcher as Widow Twankee and Sam Glen as Wishee Washee. Image by Darren Robinson

The cast do a great job on opening night and even the odd fluffed line is smoothed over with consummate professionalism. The very capable and charming Shorelle Hepkin returns as Aladdin, as does Sam Glen who plays Wishee Washee with oodles of twinkling humour. Richard J Fletcher once again dons some fabulous costumes as Widow Twankee. His Dame is a wonderful blend of earthy warmth and wicked humour, and he gets to deliver a cracking covid/fart joke that is genuinely funny. Dora Rubenstein is a feisty Princess Jasmine while Shaun Hennessy really delivers as her roué dad, the evil yet somehow lovable Emperor. Alex Phelps and Marc Zayat play off each other really well as Spirit of the Ring and Jinn of the Lamp, while also doubling as a comic duo of hapless policemen. Liz Carney is fabulous as villain Aunty Banazar oozing evil and effortlessly belting out her songs. Covid concerns mean four dancers replace the usual community chorus but they do an excellent job, especially when adding menace to the villainous high drama scenes.

Liz Carney as Aunty Banazar. Image by Darren Robinson

Aladdin is packed with popular songs delivered with passion and enthusiasm. Sweet Caroline is a real crowd pleaser that has the whole audience joining in to raise the spirits and the roof at the Coliseum. Brimming with energy and goodwill this is a family night out at the theatre that won’t disappoint. The tradition of Pantomime remains safe for generations to come as long as Oldham Coliseum remains a presence in the town.

Things We Want

Hope Mill Theatre

Written by Jonathon Marc Sherman

Directed by Daniel Bradford

One innocuous window in a set that is mainly comprised of doors. Yet this window ten stories up is the Russian roulette of double glazing. Parents, wheelchairs, VHS tapes, remote controls are hurled out and there are a few near misses with several siblings. For all its bland decor this is a high octane living room which sets the scene for this production. Three brothers who are like emotional volcanoes operating out of sync. At any one point there is usually one comatose on the couch with another erupting while a third is seemingly calm but bubbling under with something dark. The catalyst for them to swap places is usually the presence of the sunny faced but equally troubled Stella pertly played by Hannah Ellis Ryan.

Play With Fire and Swaggering Crow have chosen well with this production. The acting is full blown and fast paced as it should be in what feels like a live recording of a television sitcom. The writing is mainly slickly delivered quips and witticisms with some cracking one – liners. The strong cast make good use of this gallows humour as everyone avoids their own emotional pain with sex, drugs, booze, bonsai or psychobabble quacks like Dr Miracle. The theme of addiction and how we safely or harmfully feed our psychological pain is alluded to but never satisfactorily addressed in this quickfire trip through the mess left by a family rocked by tragedy.

There are some great performances from cast most notably Alex Phelps as Teddy as he shifts gear in the second act and moves from the autobot big brother spewing empty platitudes to the conniving train wreck on the couch. William J Holstead as Sty continues his trajectory as a great character actor with superb comic timing who is just electric when on stage. Paddy Young charms as the petulant younger brother desperate for love.

This is a well- paced play about some very dark subject matters. Director and cast are clearly having fun with a great script and packed houses at Hope Mill suggests all round success.

Hope Mill Theatre 30th May- 9th June