A traditional pantomime is the best way to get into the Christmas spirit.
Theatre Royal St Helens
Until January 12
The world can be a pretty terrifying place at the moment, so at this time of year it’s comforting to take refuge in the familiar Christmas traditions.
So it’s great to find yourself in the warm embrace of the pantomime. And before you say it, oh yes it is.
This year’s offering from the Theatre Royal in St Helens is Aladdin, that tale of vigourous lamp-rubbing, genies and flying carpets.
With former Strictly hoofer Robin Windsor in the title role, this show gives you everything you want from a modern panto. There’s water pistol fights and slapstick gags, songs, dances, booing, cheering and a load of audience participation.
Some of the gags are a little near the knuckle – the audience is urged to shout ‘Ah so Wishee’ whenever Scott Gallagher’s Wishee Washee appears on stage, which could be disastrous with an older crowd, but the rowdy young theatregoers at this preview night, hopped up on Haribo and blackcurrant squash, joined in with gusto.
Although Windsor is the biggest name on the bill – and shows off what made him a Strictly star with moves so fast you suspect there’s very little cartilage left in his hips – this show belongs to Gallagher, Si Foster as Widow Twankey and Timothy Lucas as Peking’s resident plod, PC Noodle. Lucas, in particular, makes the most of a small role – all rubber band movements, a strong voice and a Scouse accent as thick as a Mersey fog.
The singing and dancing is great, especially given the Theatre Royal’s small stage, and Olivia Sloyan (Princess Jasmine) and Jenna O’Hara (Slave of the Ring) both have terrific voices.
Philip McGuinness, as the villainous Abanazar, is one of the campest panto bad guys I’ve seen, with more ‘dahlings’ than Peter Pan, but is enjoyably hissable, and has some nice interplay with Foster’s Dame.
There’s nothing new here, but then you go to a panto knowing what to expect, and this doesn’t disappoint. It’s an end-of-the-pier delight, with fire, sparks and glittery costumes, and a perfect way to forget your post-election blues.
It certainly gets my vote.
To book, visit http://www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com/ or call the box office on 01744 756 000.