Theatre review: Aladdin and Wee Jeannie

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PANTO belongs to the great popular tradition of misrule, the idea of the topsy-turvey once-a-year-day when poor people are raised up, and the mighty are cast down.

Venue: Oran Mor, Glasgow

Rating: * * *

Review: Joyce McMillan

It therefore lends itself, almost better than any other art-form, to a spot of cheeky radical politics; and that’s why David McLennan and his team at Oran Mor have adopted the form as their own, offering one panto at Christmas and another in the summer.

This year’s version of Aladdin is not, alas, one of their stronger offerings. Desperately under-rehearsed, with co-writer David Anderson drying and corpsing all over the place in his twin roles as Widow Twankey and the villain Abanazar, it gives Oran Mor’s loyal audience less than they deserve, in terms of professionalism; and it makes tedious heavy weather of the traditional plot, with Anderson and MacLennan neglecting to burnish the few short lines it takes to move the story on.

Where the show scores, though, is in the sharpness of its political jokes, its anti-banker versions of familiar songs and its hilarious meta-panto game-playing with the cross-dressing and gender-bending that is a key part of panto, but which provides ever richer scope for humour in a world where same-sex relationships are no longer taboo. George Drennan is in blazing form as Princess Plum and Donald Trump(et), a passing right-wing billionaire; the King’s panto is roundly dismissed as a “nighmare on Elmbank Street”. And if the electronic music is a passion-killer, the cast of four work hard to give the audience a good time; with Juliet Cadzow as Wee Jeannie McCall, the genie on the bottle, and young Cat Grozier slapping thigh with the best of them, as an Aladdin who insists she’s a real boy, and has the false beard to prove it.