Mountbatten Players  The Point, Eastleigh David A Putley 11 January 2024

I think the Company, both off and on stage, of Aladdin would agree that they did not have the best of opening nights with various technical difficulties: sound (particularly the ladies, unfortunately), backing tracks, scenery, wayward lamps etc, all having minds of their own and invading a show that was no doubt perceived to be far slicker and polished.

Having said that, the sheer tenacity of all involved to soldier on and keep the show going shone across the footlights which was, in itself, a joy to watch. Everyone covered the malfunctions with warmth and character lead humour which is always the best of “live” theatre, and pantomime is probably the best source for such calamity, bringing out the best in a fully rounded company. Much is said about a “family” group in the excellent programme, and this was purely evident as all rallied around each other.

So much of this review is based on what I think I should have seen and the intension from a triple threat: actor, writer and director, Adam Feltham. There were some lovely ideas and the magic carpet ride, particularly, had its own round of applause as it raised into the star-spangled sky. I liked the mixture of tradition and new songs, and clearly everyone had worked so hard to get this production to a level worthy of a professional theatre environment. The location and newsworthy dialogue asides went down very well and clearly well researched.

I have to say the costumes and choreography were superb.

Elle Watson used her skills to create movement and flow throughout, making good use of all the space available. ‘I’m Still Standing’ was in fact a standout for me, very well executed and enjoyable. The chorus ensemble was enthusiastic and well-disciplined throughout.

Costume-wise, Peter Pitcher and his team have worked their own type of magic as each scene saw something new for all cast. The “screens” idea for Aladdin’s cave transformation was a neat directional trick, the dame clothing all the more outrageous with such “hats” and overall standard really added to the illusion and magic that pantomime gives, particularly to first time watchers.

Performance wise, each actor gave the best they could of themselves competing in what was perhaps an over-populated script. Less may have been more (the kneel joke was over long for instance) but each character was properly written for with natural dialogue combined with necessary age-old pantomime elements.

Leading them as Aladdin, Madelene Bolton literally bolted around the stage with energy and vim, her “boyish” charm being very infectious. Matching her enthusiasm, Molly Lancaster was a feisty but loyal Jasmine, giving the character some feminine zest. Stephen Fenerty as Widow Twankey did a brilliant job with jokes old and new; the vegan one had me laugh out loud. Helen Wood as Wishee gave Twankey a run for her money with similar “usual” dumb jokery, the partnership between Mother and Brothers being cosy and fuzzy floating across the footlights which was very nice to see.

Supporting cast were equally as good. Martin Anderson as Aabanazar was in suitably “I want to rule the world” mode, with the most effective evil villain laugh. Cat Woodridge was very good as the Genie, with well thought out “modern” dialogue very well put across. Mary-Rose Finden was suitably imperious as the Empress. Felicity Farrell as Dalia was consistently good in her supportive role, her dialogue again being very well delivered, underplaying against the stronger characters around her. Josh Stockton and Owen Hawes as the policemen seemed to be rarely off-stage with one mad-cap moment after the other. Their joint use of stage and usual antics were well done and appreciated by the audience. Paul Jones and Paul Young did well with small but pivotal roles throughout. Adam Feltham channelled his best Rik Mayall as Vincent the Vain, with suitably trailing locks.

The band led by Adan Blosse did an excellent job extemporising filling in work adding sound effects etc when needed.

I am so hoping tonight will be much better for all concerned as the sheer hard work put in by all concerned deserves to be fully exploited and seen.

Maybe at nearly 3 hours the script could have been trimmed a little more… maybe an over ambitious thought process in presentation… maybe…

However, what was evident at the end of the performance was the love and admiration from supporters of this affable Company raising funds for a very worthy cause. This continued upon leaving with a meet and greet of fabulously relieved cast, being embraced by adoring attendees. This is live theatre and this is what it is all about at the end of the day. Long may it continue in all its forms.