Friday, January 8, 2010

London Pantomime - Hackney Empire Aladdin Review

I have heard a lot about pantomimes in the UK and have always meant to watch one but have never managed to get tickets for one until this year. They are light hearted entertainment for the Christmas and New Year season, and very popular as family entertainment. I heard that the Old Vic actually staged one some years ago to very favourable reviews but alas they are not doing one this year. I heard good reviews about Hackney Empire's Aladdin and was very pleased that I managed to obtain tickets for a matinee some time before Christmas.

Slapstick humour delivered in an artistic manner (image source)

My British friends gave me a detailed briefing on the pantomime tradition before I went for the performance so that I would know what to expect. For starters, pantomime is all about cross-dressing. Men would dress up as women and vice versa. The audience is expected to participate. When the baddie comes on stage, you are supposed to boo and hiss your disapproval. When the hero is to be surprised by the villain, the audience should shout warnings to the hero. You are supposed to sing and dance along when prompted and sometimes at the end of the performance members of the audience might be invited onto the stage!

True to form, Hackney Empire's Aladdin has a lady (Anna Jane Casey) acting as Aladdin and a man (Clive Rowe) acting as Aladdin's mother. It follows the Aladdin story (boy and princess love story, genie and magic lamp) quite closely but with the scene set in a supposedly Chinese city of Ha Ka Ney. I came without much expectations but went away impressed. There was a live band and the singing was excellent. The sets were well designed and there were plenty of rigorous dancing and dancing. I was amazed by the standard of singing of the cast - all very impressive.

When I attended the performances, it seems that the entire audience was entirely made up of local schoolchildren. They made a terrific audience, cheering and booing as prompted by the cast. They were extremely pleased when Aladdin's mother started throwing sweets into the crowd! I was disappointed that I was seated too far from the stage to grab the sweets! For the finale the audience is asked to dance to a song about pandas and the audience (including me) gamely went along.

All in all it was terrific fun. It might be just what you need for this wintry weekend (f you can still get the tickets). The run expires on 10 January 2009 so hurry!


Hackney Empire
291 Mare Street
London, E8 1EJ
020 8510 4500

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Karin said...

hahaha, the old vic ones you refer to were legendary - 2 years running they had ian mckellen as the widow twankey in aladdin, and i went for the cinderella one written by stephen fry (have a review of it up on my blog) - was a great laugh. next time have a little bit of alcohol before you go and the experience gets upped by about ten notches! :)