Pantomime is the traditional festive entertainment – and a perfect way to escape from winter weather, General Elections, present wrapping ... and thoughts of who might be descending on you for Christmas dinner.
But this production of Aladdin at Falkirk Town Hall is perfection. It’s a delight from the moment the curtain rises until the final encore – and leaves you wanting more.
Well perhaps those in the front couple of rows would be happy to forego the ‘soaking’ they got from the water guns, but apart from them everyone was loving this production from Imagine Theatre.
It’s got everything the best pantos should have: over-the-top dame, hilarious stooge, pretty heroine, charming hero, a singalong, audience participation – oh yes there was! – and, of course, an evil villain.
But what makes Aladdin such a perfect show is the way the cast appear to be thoroughly enjoying every moment, and if you don’t want it to end, they make it seem that they don’t want it to end either – although where they get all that energy from defies me.
Everyone is excellent from the young dancers in the junior ensemble to the headline names.
Libby McArthur of River City fame struts about the stage as the not so posh Empress, while Falkirk’s very own Barbara Bryceland is the sparkly Spirit of the Ring. This is her second panto and she was obviously more relaxed this time around. However, the power of her remarkable voice brings much to this production with the audience applauding her every appearance.
Emily Cochrane is a sweet Princess Jasmine, looking just like one of those dolls from Disney that every little girl wants, while Ross Jamieson is a fine Aladdin.
However, I’m still trying to work out where in Falkirk he bought the magic carpet because that scene where he floated above the stage impressed everyone.
Derek McGhie was a suitably ‘nasty’ Abanazar, duping poor Aladdin and his family into believing he is a long-lost relative – but of course it’s all so he can get his hands on the magical lamp.
And once he gets his hands on the lamp, of course, he becomes the master of the genie, the suitably imposing Henry Sanders.
However, I make no apologies for saying the stars of the show are Craig Glover as Widow Twankey and Scott Watson as her son and Aladdin’s brother, the silly but hilarious Wishee Washee.
Every moment this pair are on stage you were waiting on the next laugh – and they came thick and fast.
Widow Twankey had the expected over-the-top costumes, make up and wigs, but it was her quick one-liners and deadpan delivery which made her the star.
The script by Eric Potts is sprinkled with local a references – it seems, there’s not a district escapes Widow Twankey’s critique, while her line about her Stenhousemuir FC underwear – “hardly any support and nae cups” proves that the old jokes are still funny.
While Wishee Washee reminded me of one of those Duracell bunnies, who never runs out of steam but keeps going and going and going ...
The energy he uses up as he dives about the stage leaves you feeling exhausted, even though you’ve never moved from your seat.
Without giving too much away, the scene in Widow Twankey’s laundry is one of the highlights, closely followed by the dance routine cleverly choreographed by Lainie Baird.
Barbara Bryceland isn’t the only Falkirk ‘connection’ in this panto – ensemble members John Aitken and Stefanie Eadie are from this area, while Kiera Murray is from Stirling and her dad Craig used to write the Falkirk Children’s Theatre pantos.
Director Stuart Bird is also from Falkirk and is a veteran of Grangemouth’s Young Portonians.
Aladdin was a great night out – but don’t take my word for it as there are performances until December 24. You really don’t want to miss this!
Empress – Libby McArthur
Spirit of the Ring – Barbara Bryceland
Widow Twankey – Craig Glover
Wishee Washee – Scott Watson
Abanazar – Derek McGhie
Princess Jasmine – Emily Cochrane
Aladdin – Ross Jamieson
The Genie – Henry Sanders
Ensemble – John Aitken, Stefanie Eadie and Kiera Murray
Dragons – Emma Crosthwaite, Violet Beattie, Stella Gillespie, Bryony Barr, Rebecca Miller, Chloe Murray, Kara Russell, April Beattie
Tigers – Amy Meichan, Gracie Coyle, Iona Galbraith, Isla Gordon, Alexa Hope, Grace Gillies, Abbey Gordon, Kenzie Railey.
Reserves – Megan Richards, Sophie Leonard