Wildly uneven in terms of tone, Aladdin at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, is more fantasy adventure than traditional panto, despite sticking close to the familiar formula on paper.
Written by Qdos’ script juggernaut Alan McHugh, the production takes the story back to its original Peking setting, with a few particularly dated jokes and some dubious design choices verging on the crassly insensitive.
Displaying an unusual preference for jump-scares over naughty jokes, director Thom Southerland plays it all surprisingly straight, though a committed cast elevate the usual set-pieces with vigour and frequent good-humoured asides.
Variety veteran Ricky K heaves energy into his scenes as Wishee Washee, managing a torrent of pratfalls, tongue-twisters, and a remarkably physical take on the old “I’d rather be” sketch with limitless enthusiasm. David Robbins gets little to do as a significantly sidelined Widow Twankey, while Marti Pellow makes a masterful, genuinely malevolent villain as sleazy warlock Abanazar, absolutely dominating proceedings with deadpan wickedness and a brilliant vocal range.
Some exceptional visual effects give things an epic feel, with giant puppets, flying carpets, and a lengthy, reasonably traumatising 3D video taking the audience through an intense gauntlet of ghosts, ghoulies, creepy crawlies and fire-belching monstrosities.