Barnstaple performance of traditional tale is as polished as Aladdin’s lamp
The curtain is up - Christmas can begin, oh yes it can!
North Devon Theatres has set a benchmark for high-quality slapstick-filled pantomimes over the years - and if this afternoon's (Saturday) debut performance of Aladdin is anything to go by, Barnstaple's Queen's Theatre looks set to be the hot ticket again this Christmas.
Written by BAFTA award-winning duo Iain Lauchlan and Will Brenton, the show soon descends into the riotous, toe-tapping, gag-filled feast of family fun that we hoped it would be.
There's a familiar look to this year's show, with many of the main protagonists back in town after 2015's sell-out production of Cinderella, also produced by Imagine Theatre.
Ian Hallard - who returns to Barnstaple after a deliciously villainous debut as ugly sister Flatula last year - provides a healthy dose of sauce and spice as Widow Twankey. Audience member Colin certainly had an afternoon he'll never forget!
Fellow 2015 ugly sister Matthew Baldwin is also back - this time to crank up the boo-hiss factor as the wicked Abanazar. He's the baddie we love to hate, and there was certainly nothing wrong with the moral compass of this afternoon's young audience members.
Jenny Perry - Dandini in Cinderella last year - returns as Aladdin, the cheeky chappie who falls in love with Princess Baldroubadour (Sophie Ayres, who played Cinderella last year).
Aaron Gibson is new to the Barnstaple cast - but not to his role as the Genie - a character he played in Southport last year. His flamboyant performance is certainly one of the stand-outs of this year's production - think gold, glitter and eye-watering dance moves.
Comedy also comes courtesy of Adam Rhys-Davies' Wishee-Washee, who ties much of the fun together in a lovable sidekick role.
The cast has only had the script for a few weeks - with the final dress rehearsal last night (Friday) - but they are clearly going to have a lot of fun with this one between now and January 2.
The action is as polished as Aladdin's lamp but there is still plenty of room for some delicious ad-libbing, particularly with willing - or not-so-willing audience members.
It's all heart-warming good family fun. Parents and grandparents will have as much fun watching the reactions of young audience members as they do the action on stage.
Aladdin is at the Queen's Theatre until Monday, January 2. For tickets call 01271 324242 or visit www.northdevontheatres.org.uk