Aladdin at Hackney Empire
Aladdin might just be the best a pantomime can get. There’s nothing stale about Hackney Empire’s 20th year of festive family productions – a miracle considering the hit-and-miss nature of this beloved British tradition.
The show, for those that don’t know, follows the story of a poor boy who finds a magic lamp with a genie inside. This version takes place on the island of Ha-Ka-Ney, which has recently exited the Eastern Union (hmm…).
The performance kicks off a little tediously with a tad too much housekeeping. Almost every single character walks out separately and instructs the audience on what to shout and when, each one following up with the inevitable “I can’t hear you! You can do better than that!” But once things get going, it’s hard to find fault.
It’s everything you want in a panto: singing, dancing, good jokes, bad jokes, dames, audience participation and the odd sexual innuendo. And as well as some original songs, Aladdin also chucks in a few well-known hits – from The Greatest Showman to Baby Shark – that really get the crowd going.
There couldn’t be a better Widow Twankey than Clive Rowe; he sets a new standard for dames. And Tameka Empson is hilarious as the Empress of Ha-Ka-Ney. The show is well worth watching for these two alone, but the rest of the cast are great too.
The kids are more than catered to in a spectacular that never relaxes its grip on the audience’s attention. The excellent choice in songs, sparkling cave, giant dragon, amazingly insane frocks and genuinely likeable characters makes it a joy to watch from start to finish.
And just as importantly, the adults are also kept thoroughly entertained. On top of the above-mentioned innuendo, there’s also a slew of Brexit jokes along with other current-affairs gags which land perfectly.
Aladdin is the panto to see this year. The most problematic question, of course, is how Hackney Empire can possibly live up to this show when it comes to their 21st year.
Photos: Robert Workman
Aladdin is at Hackney Empire from 6th December until 6th January 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.