We’ve not even had St Andrew’s Day but the panto season has begun and one of the first off the starting blocks is Musselburgh’s Brunton.
This year’s production, Aladdin, is again a pun filled romp from writer and director Mark Cox. Originally called Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp, it was one of the Tales of Arabian Nights. It is set in China and has become a long-standing pantomime staple and, in good old fashioned surreal panto style, we are in a version of Aladdin, with the rhyming surname McFadyen, who lives in a China with East Lothian place names.
Martin Murphy plays a cool Aladdin who lives in their Chinese Laundry with his Mammy the vain Widow Twankey played outlandishly by Keith McLeish. He loves the beautiful Princess Jasmine (Eilidh Weir) from afar and little knows that she has also had her eye on him from over her palace’s wall where she lives with her Daddy, the Emperor Malky (Sean Hay).
With the help of comic duo of baton wielding, but utterly hermless guards Rory and Rhona (Shonagh Price and Julie Coombe), double-crossing baddie Abanazar (Richard Conlon) contrives to ensure that wide-eyed Aladdin is accused of a crime.
He then lures him to a cave where he’s told to bring out an old lamp or else. Aladdin gets trapped in the cave and rubs the lamp making Jock the Genie (Sean Hay) appear. Among the three wishes granted to Aladdin are riches for him and his Mammy and marriage to Jasmine, but Abanazar tricks them again by disguising himself as an old crone swapping ‘new lamps for old’. Once he has the lamp, he also claims Jasmine as his bride -to-be but with one wish still pending, Jock the Genie is summoned to save the day. Good conquers evil and everybody’s happy.
The backdrop’s gaudy colours are as loud as the Christmas tunes that are the warm up act for this traditional Festive show and anticipation’s in the air. In this necessarily distilled version of Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp, there’s no magic ring so events go at what feels like a break neck pace with little time to engage properly with the youngsters except in a formulaic way.
This was evident at the show’s traditional competitive audience singing when ‘the cloot’ appears with the panto song’s lyrics. Sadly, the joke of a tongue twisting ‘felt smart’ never became the ‘smelt fart’ that the fast singing intends so missed the potential of bringing gales of laughter from the kids.
Disappointingly too, the text seems more risqué than in the past in this family show where significantly one of the funniest moments came when Aladdin asks what he thinks is the ‘bleedin’ obvious’ by asking if the audience knows his name. “Jimmy!” was the innocent answer.
Despite terrific work from the stalwart cast dressed in the fantastic and beautifully made costumes from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the magic dust is a wee bit thin on the ground with the show lacking real oomph and feeling a bit like Panto by numbers.
Tue 22 November – Sat 31 December, Brunton Theatre