Review: Aladdin - Byre Theatre, St Andrews

IMAGINE you’d never seen pantomime, only read about it in books. You’d know it should be based on a fairytale, that there should be a man dressed as a woman, a baddie everyone boos, a love story, bouts of audience participation and a few songs.

If you put on a show with this knowledge alone, it would quite possibly look something like this shapeless Aladdin. The Byre/NLP co-production has all the elements, but it’s a feeble echo of the real thing.

There are two problems. The first is with Debbie Carmichael’s script, which manages to be overly wordy yet hard to follow. One minute she’s relying too heavily on our familiarity with the story and underplaying key plot points, the next she’s getting lost in an extraneous subplot about a dragon. She writes very few jokes and no good ones (corny is OK in panto, but these are just bad) and provides an uncertain sense of who the central characters are.

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The second problem is a production plagued by self-indulgent acting. In the absence of funny material, David Lee Michael’s actors adopt silly voices, eccentric postures and bizarre mannerisms, frequently upstaging each other and rarely contributing to the forward momentum of the show. They look like they’re having a lovely time, but the pleasure is all theirs.

Only James Watterson’s Aladdin and Lorna Gold’s Princess seem to know what they’re doing and, when the squeaky-clean romantic leads are the best things about a panto, you know something’s gone awry.