Paisley Arts Centre. Until 24 December.
There must be a bladder infection running through the classrooms of Paisley. This production, which doesn‘t exactly have its troubles to seek, was frequently brought to its knees by a chaotic relay race between parents and their leaking offspring. The cast battled gamely, but by the end they looked like a community under selge - overwhelmed by the forces of nature.
Over and above that, however, ‘Aladdin’ has some serious problems. The biggest demand placed upon pantomime actors is that they be able to improvise, without making it too obvious. Admittedly this is a difficult skill to learn, and a very young cast can be excused on the grounds of inexperience, but it doesn’t help matters if the leading actors discard their characters to discuss their way out of a sticky patch.
Despite the flaws, however, there is plenty to recommend this show. lan McAleese creates a thoroughly villainous Abanazer, and his conversion to the status of ‘nice-boy’ is a tidy way to round things off. More generally, it is to the credit of the cast- that they remain cheerful throughout. Yes, they do have their shareof blunders, but at least they have the presence of mind to bluff their way out of them. There are some good gags, and the audience are given plenty to distract them from their toilet fixation. (Philip Kingsley)
IIEYU_ THE SNOW DUEEN
Paisley Town Hall. Run Ended. Some things in life are humbling. There are times when the plight and courage of other people forces you to recognise petty gripes for what they are. The presentation of the Snow Queen, orchestrated by Fablevision, but presented by a number of special needs groups, was one such occasion. This comment begs some degree of explanation. Fablevision are a company whose remit is to appeal to the widest possible section of the community. With this in mind they have developed a highly visual style of narrative; a style which has, to date, resulted in an unbroken line of
accessible and highly entertaining productions. They deny that theatre should have some exclusive social line drawn across it, and so far they have been proven right.
Until recently, however, their success has depended upon a distinction between actors and the public: the audience might have included all ages and abilities, but on stage there has been very little to distinguish Fablevisfon from a regular, commercial company. Until now.
The Snow Oueen is performed in its entirety by groups of mentally and physically handicapped young adults. This in itself is no mean feat, given the difficulties of training and building the confidence of such a group in a short space of time. But what is even more impressive is that this show was really quite successful. There were some sticky moments, but if you‘re imagining an audience of sympathetic ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’, then think again. There were moments of real entertainment in this show, and it’s a shame that so few people will get the chance to see it.
I'm not going to moralise about the issue of mentally handicapped people participating in the mainstream of society. But if you want to measure the value of this kind of production, then try to imagine the excitement and pleasure that was so evident on the faces of the cast, after the show was over. (Philip Kingsley)
Imm- THE ICE DRAGON
Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh, 22-30 December.
Theatre Workshop’s imaginative production provides a bristling example of what can be achieved within the loose constraint of the Christmas Show. Bursting with magical fun, it succeeds in whisking its enraptured audience to a different world, mirroring the power of the magic story book in the play. An unusually hushed audience perched on the edge of their seats, children craned their necks for the full duration, transfixed by the action.
Alex McSherry’s script manages to steer a difficult course, allowing for lashings of corn without recourse to hackneyed gags from past efforts. Some of the jokes may go over very young heads but never to the detriment
The List said that, ooh they never!
4G The List 22 December 1989 — 11 January 1990
' of the spectacle, rather as a conscious
effort to expect a reasonable amount from a young audience. The play is a refreshing reminder that
not all the best stories are old ones.
Owing much to the 0.8. Lewis adventure fantasies, McSherry adds a contemporary slant to the genre, replacing the public school element with vernacular speech and attitudes. The lull-blooded characters however, never become overloaded with the moral message.
Theatre Workshop has gathered together a strong, talented backstage team. Wonderful costumes enhance the terrible beauty of the wicked Goblin queen and the dragon was so captivating that every child gave it a tentative prod of disbelief when it came anywhere near them. Karen Tennent’s ingenious ice cave, masterfully lit by Alan Woolle, provided a suitable arena for imaginative direction from Peter Clerke.
Overall, and despite an unsteady pace, what with dramatic music, awesome lighting and fearsome cackling, even my heart began to beat a little faster during the frightening bits. (Jo Roe)
PETER AND PENNY’S PANTO
Tron Theatre. Until 14 January.
There seems to be a question mark hanging over the issue of adults and pantomime. We all know what tradition dictates: one whiff of a fairy tale and the children run ciamouring fortheir birthright. Grown ups, meanwhile, will just have to make do as best they can; pay up, sittight, and waitforthe throwaway gag about the poll tax. it doesn’t matter, because adults hate this sort of thing anyway: ‘Christmas is for kids’ (everyone knows that).
Well I disagree. Time might diminish some of its mystique, but Christmas still provides harrassed and underpaid adults with a chance to relax, reflect, and above all, enjoy themselves. Why shouldn’t they get a panto to match?
Fear not, for help is at hand. The Tron Theatre, with a little help from playwright Alex Norton, has produced the perfect antidote: a funny, original and genuinely adult Christmas pantomime. At first glance, it seems
innocent enough: Peter and Penny are rag dolls, they come to life, they have an adventure. 80 on and so forth. But brace yourself— the villain is about to appear. The ‘Great Bahooky’ is one of the weirdest and most repulsive apparitions that you are likely to see. Forget your Black cloaks and cackling laughs, Bahooky looks like a suave and pencil-moustached caricature of Elvis Presley: vain, talentless and badly dressed. Together with his retarded sidekick ‘Bumble’, he transforms the show. Children, for once, are pushed to the side, and adults are given the chance to roll in their own muck. The sense of relief around the auditorium was palpable.
If you thought that panto was for kids, then think again. This is a great way to
i will now talk about panto in the mannerof
begin your ‘eighteen to thirty’ night out. (Philip Kingsley)
ALI MACBABA AND THE TOMB OF DOOM
The Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh. Until Jan 6.
Arriving at the theatre with a sea of brown and yellow clad little darlings instantly put me in mortal fear for my ear drums. Fortunately for my hearing, but rathertragically for a panto, the cast fell woefully short of mustering what I imagined to belittle more than a minor achievement— getting a hundred or so Brownies to scream at the top of theirvoices.
There was hardly even a hiss at the baddie, in spite of the best efforts of Robin Cameron in the role of Ali Macbaba. And this is where most of the blame forthe lack of audience participation must lie. For Cameron plays his part like Michael Barrymore on an ecstacy trip. We all know that the kids need a lively lead in order to get them going, but Cameron’s frantic over-enthusiasm not only leaves his voice half of its former self by the end of
Kylie and Jason remainingtight-lipped.