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Aladdin review at Royal and Derngate, Northampton – ‘the wrong sort of bad’

Zoe George and Jaymi Hemsley in Aladdin at Royal and Derngate. Photo: Graeme Braidwood Zoe George and Jaymi Hemsley in Aladdin at Royal and Derngate. Photo: Graeme Braidwood

Northampton Royal and Derngate’s Aladdin claims it has “everything you could wish for in a panto”. As far as I can tell, it only has one thing to offer: it looks spectacular. Stewart Nicholls’ production is a riot of colourful extravagance, a barrage of ridiculous costumes, vibrant sets, and squeal-inducing coups-de-theatre.

Elsewhere, though, it doesn’t exactly satisfy, but provoke questions. Questions like how does Sheila Ferguson of successful Philadelphia pop trio The Three Degrees (When Will I See You Again?) end up playing the Fairy Godmother (badly) in a clunky, characterless panto in Northampton?

Questions like who are Union J, and why is their lead singer Jaymi Hensley playing Aladdin (badly)? Questions like does Paul Nicholas have a shred of self-respect left? Questions like what is the point of life, if all it consists of is suffering?

It’s not that Aladdin is bad, it’s that it’s the wrong sort of bad. It’s that it’s so obviously an assembly-line panto, so evidently a product to be consumed. Most of the right panto ingredients are here – a dame, sing-a-longs, vaguely offensive Orientalism – but there’s some key ingredients missing. There’s not a shred of genuine community spirit, of genuine enthusiasm, of genuine Christmas cheer. Boo. Hiss.

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An unimaginative, assembly line panto that's spectacular but spiritless