amat- Aladdins slain

Stephen Chester sees how the stage is competing with Walt Disney in the magic carpet stakes.

Crapgagsville! ‘Where do policemen live‘?’ in ‘Letsbe Avenue!‘ ‘Who’lljoin me‘." ‘Why. are you fallin‘ apan‘?‘ ‘He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and he hasnae stirred since.‘

That‘s just a taster. a tnere groaning drop in the ocean of gloriously bad jokes to be heard in the Brunton Theatre's Aladdin. The weird thing is that for all this what-do-policemen- like-in-their-sandwiches/Truncheon- meat-type business. I can’t remember a single thing about the rest of the show. ‘That’s because you‘re an appalling reviewer who fell asleep in Scene Two.‘ you might respond, which is fair enough. but all the same I can’t help but sense a massive Ephemerality Field has been constructed over Musselburgh’s municipal monstrosity. The result is a notebook full of bad jokes and phrases like ‘good writing.’ ‘ha ha‘ and ‘knew I should have gone to the toilet before it started’.

Other cryptic scribblings include ‘scary‘. though I think this was a reference to the uncontrollable mob of children screaming ‘Chop off his head!‘ in response to the question ‘What shall we do with him?‘ That was the wrong answer apparently. Give me the child and I will give you the law and order pressure group of tomorrow as someone once said.

Over in Glasgow. Aladdin is doing his rubbing in the Mitchell Theatre, with problematic results for the fire alarms.

The evacuated audience subsequently took an enforced early interval in the rain before being lct back to a plethora of fire alarm ad libs.

This is (in between emergency situations) not only a big-time panto. albeit on a small stage. but also a post- Disney one: Wis/tee Was/tee. Andrew Fairlie. was obliged to shout lines like ‘wake up doughballs‘ and to pretend to be Robin Williams as the set fell down around him. For this was. if only on its first night. a pleasantly out of control production. with radio mics

occasionally breaking their silence with

screams of feedback as the wrong backdrop was flown in. So lots ofjolly good fun all round?

Well yes. in an inherently racist society 1 without arty form of sensitivity toward : ethnic minorities. The Black And White .llinistrel Show was justly abandoned years ago. but putting a bit of mascara { at the corner of your eyes and going

; ‘ho-si-chi‘ still seems worthy ofa laugh i if it‘s panto. ()K. the shows might be be

5 infantile. crass and targelted at a mob ; with an average age of nine. but do

; they have to stoop to such levels of

; cultural simplicity in order to appeal? Oh no they . ..

Aladdin, Bruntun Theatre.

: Mussel/)myh. until Sat 8 Jan. The

Magic World ()f/lltlr/t/ln, Mlle/tell ; Theatre. (i/asgmt: until Sat [5 Jan.

Aladdin at the Brunton, Musselburgh


King’s Theatre, Edinburgh. Ilntil Sat 29 Jan.

With the big main-house pantos there are certain professional standards that we take as read. We know we’ll get the high-kicking, all-singing, all- dancing numbers, the garish costumes, the fire-cracker explosions and the elaborate sets that disappear in the time it takes a curtain to fall and rise.

All this the King’s always does with supreme efficiency, so what distinguishes one panto from the next is the quality of the leads. And I have to say that in Sleeping Beauty the theatre has come up with a sadly

anodyne bunch. Taking top billing is Les Dennis whose phenomenally popular TV shows I have never seen so, on the basis of his Lester the Jester, lam in no position to account for his success. Sure, he’s inoffensive enough, but he tails to distinguish himself as interesting in any way; his singing is proficient, his TV impressions are OK, his patter trips along . . . all of it is just so forgettany bland.

When this is the standard set by the lead, you can imagine how much impression the goody-goody prince and princess make. Vapid isn’t in it. It’s really left to Gerard Kelly to scratch up any sort of friction and, although he shines, he doesn’t sparkle in the role of the dame. Playing off the

i downbeat Gary Denis, he has to put all 3 his effort into keeping the energy

3 level up when he could be getting

5 down to some serious comedy - a far

; cry from the Kelly/McLean dream-

5 ticket of two years ago.

Raymond Boss’s script attempts to liven things up with a spot of Scots-

} English banter and timely local references, but the story-line,

3 begrudgingly introduced a good 40

3 minutes into the show, is paid cursory ' attention and gives virtually no

i opportunity for character

i development. Polished off with the

l King’s usual sheen, the show still

: provides a bright and breezy night out, E but it should have been a lot better

i than this. (Mark Fisher)

t . h After last year's success at the Tron. it’s Edinburgh‘s turn to discover that all is not what it seems in Forbes Masson‘s pantomime world of Tanania. Masson takes the romantic comedy tradition of mistaken identity and weaves it into panto-structure. thus the self-confident show-biz persona of techno idol Troon Colquhoun (swoooon!) hides the wimpy alter-ego of Buttons. while goofy be-spectacled Elle McKechnie is really glamorous rock-singer Cinderella. The subversion even affects the audience: when a baddie throws sweets into the auditorium. children throw them back at him. This is a Cinders for the 90s: her glass slipper is a sequinned Reebok; her midnight ball is a midnight rave.

As the ugly sisters. John Ramage and Robert Carr are a dynamic duo: the former is a really nasty piece of work done up as a fanciable Madonna/Tina Turner lookalike; the latter pulls offa masterful pastiche of Nat King Cole’s ‘Merry Christmas‘. Just imagine ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire’ sung melodically by a 6ft 4in building- block hulk ofa Scots dame. and you‘ll get the drift.

Playing a character with ‘as much charm and talent as Mr Blobby‘. Forbes Masson's body language conveys all the vulnerability ofa latter-day Stan Laurel. both in and out of slapstick. His script gets in plenty of bodily-function jokes, with a heavy emphasis on farting. In one scene, lavatorial humour literally takes centre stage. in a glorious excess of double entendres. Another sees the ugly sisters undergoing a ‘Cruelty Without Beauty‘ session: generously splattered with ‘recycled’ grass. rotten eggs and lager slops, then subjected to a painful-looking dilapidary treatment. (testing actors’ restraint to the full) substituting sticky tape for leg wax. and ending with an industrial stapler coming out in anticipation ofa face-lift job.

There’s plenty for both adults and children to enjoy in this unselfconscious. uncondescending panto. The audience full oftinies loved it. And so did I. (Gabe Stewart)

Royal Lyceum Theatre. Edinburgh.

Until Sat 8 Jun.

The List l7 December l‘)%- l 3 January I‘M-l 51