On a cold and blustery January afternoon in downtown Stamford what could be better than a heart warming and colourful version of that most popular of pantomimes: Aladdin?
Polka Dot Pantomimes, under the inimitable direction of Phil Norton, did not disappoint a capacity audience last week at Stamford Arts Theatre.
From the moment we were first bedazzled by an imaginative depiction of Old Peking to the inevitable ‘cup of coffee in your copper coffee pot’ singalong moment prior to the finale, an enthusiastic crowd was swept along by a fast paced, high tech entertainment of the first order.
At the centre of this glimpse of what variety was once all about, stood Phil Norton himself as Wishee Washee. Here was a masterclass in what it is to make a profound and difficult art look easy and from which several of Wishee’s inexperienced fellow players might learn a lesson for future reference. Panto is nothing unless there is a real connection with the audience and one’s co-actors: it may be pretend, but we have believe in it as well as being thoroughly entertained. Of course, it helps, if one has likeability and charisma, in Twankey’s Laundry basket loads, as Phil has.
That being said, I cannot fault the singing of the obligatory panto 2014-15 offerings of ‘Frozen’ tunes and Pharrell Williams’ anthems by Martyn Payne and Beth Dillon as Aladdin and Jasmine, the beautiful costumes or the excruciating yet hilarious gags. Where there needed to be editing, for the sake of fidgety five year olds, was in dialogue heavy sections and repetitive choreography over dependent on what Craig Revell Horwood might term ‘armography.’
Strong performances stood out from Hayley Sewell’s Barbara Windsoresque Slave of the Ring. Edward Avison Scott’s camp emperor and John Highton’s kaleidoscopic Widow Twankey.
At its best, pantomime enraptures chidren and captures the hearts of the children within us all. Thus was our wish to be transported from post-Christmas gloom granted with a rub of a magical, Stamford-made, Polka Dot lamp.