Reviewed by Katie Allen
I love going with the family to see a panto – there’s something very comforting about enjoying the shared, traditional experience.
Everyone knows the Aladdin story thanks to Disney and this version at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking also includes the character of “The Spirit of the Ring” played by Strictly Come Dancing’s Brendan Cole. Brendan joins experienced panto performer Bobby Davro as Aladdin’s brother Wishee Washee, CBBC’s Mischa Eckersley as Princess Jasmine, David Phipps-Davis as Widow Twankey and Dawson Chance as Chief of Police. Special mention also goes to Wendy Mae Brown as the regal Empress, Jonny Fines with his devilish Abanazar and Pearce Barron as Aladdin himself. They were supported by a strong ensemble including pupils from the local Julie Sianne Theatre Arts.
The show opens with some exposition from Abanazar and a dominating cobra hoovering high above the stage. My 6-year-old daughter was a little alarmed at this so be warned if you have anyone with a snake phobia you may want to miss the first 5 minutes. Soon enough though, the panto moved on to more of the traditional components with Wishee Washee riding a “wonky” donkey and the Dame discussing her laundry.
Bobby Davro is the blood of the show. He had the audience in the palm of his hand with his jokes and antics and brought the house down with his countries of the world song. Mischa Eckersley and Pearce Barron brought warmth with their love story and it was great to see the usual “Princess saved by the Prince” trope turned on its head. Much more fitting for 2019 than the original tale.
I wish Wendy Mae Brown had more to do – she had a short solo early on and I was keen to hear more of her voice. David Phipps-Davis was the perfect Dame. Great frocks and wigs and full of innuendo. I really enjoyed his “chicken balls” song which allowed him to flex his classically trained pipes.
Dawson Chance with his sidekick Willy the Turtle was a little superfluous to the narrative but the kids (and adults) loved shouting “wake up willy” and I’m sure I’ll be hearing Willy’s catchphrase “Is it?” for many weeks!
Sometime pantos can feel a little “cheap” on the production side. This is not the case in Woking. I would say the production design rivals those shows in the West End and the “Wicked” close of Act One is one of the most jaw-dropping moments in theatre I’ve ever experienced.
We love the New Victoria Theatre in Woking. If you’re more used to the older style theatre with small seats and no legroom, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised at this modern space. The theatre itself is within a shopping centre and next to a cinema giving a great atmosphere as you walk into the box office and allowing many options for dinner pre-show. There are bars and toilets on many levels and the middle level sometimes has a piano player playing show tunes which adds a sophisticated ambiance reminding me of a cruise ship.
We usually drive and park in the Peacock’s Shopping Centre multi storey next door costing just £3 if you enter the car park after 6pm (there’s a flat rate of £1.50 after 7pm). The added bonus of this location is you won’t need to store a bulky coat under your chair. The walk from the car park is completely undercover. For those who don’t drive, Woking railway station is a short 10-15 minute walk away.
Tickets cost from £13 (plus £3.65 transaction fee).
Aladdin is at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking from 6 December 2019 to 5 January 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/new-victoria-theatre or call the box office on 0844 871 7645.
New Victoria Theatre, The Ambassadors, Peacocks Centre, Woking, Surrey, GU21 6GQ