REVIEW - it's the perfect panto at New Theatre Royal Portsmouth

Aladdin, New Theatre Royal Portsmouth, December 8-31
Aladdin 2023 Cast - NTR Portsmouth (contributed pic)Aladdin 2023 Cast - NTR Portsmouth (contributed pic)
Aladdin 2023 Cast - NTR Portsmouth (contributed pic)

Aladdin at Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal turns out to be one of the most beautiful illustrations imaginable of one of the absolute essentials of panto: it has to be funny. And this panto is very funny. Very, very funny in fact… and consistently funny throughout.

The scene at the start of the second half where Chris Aukett as Widow Twankey and James Oates as Wishee Washee take their cues for everything they say from the contents of a washing basket was priceless and brilliantly done.

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But the point is that the gags came thick and fast all the way through. You try to cling on to each and every one but they come so quickly that each one erases the last from memory. I am not sure I have ever laughed quite so much in a pantomime.

And even Alex Scott Fairley as Abanazaar was at it – offering a quite superb come back when someone shouted out that he should be killed. Just as funny was his strop when, having waited all evening for the chance to sing a solo, Kaysha Nada as Princess Jasmine muscled in on it. His fit of pique was, like so much else of this panto, comedy gold.

Fabulous comic fun too was Josiah Eloi as the Police Constable, a role which has never seemed terribly interesting… until now. Eloi grabbed it and turned it into something genuinely special – just one of many big performances on a night which did the whole notion of panto proud.

Alex Scott Fairley was excellent as the villain; Chris Aukett was everything a dame ought to be, saucy, sexy and tremendous fun; and James Oates kept the pace up hilariously. All of which proved to be the perfect platform for a truly lovely performance from Emma Marsh as Aladdin, spirited but charming, thigh-slapping and properly engaging. Very strong too from Kaysha Nada as her love interest. They combined well – and sang together beautifully. Indeed, the music and dancing throughout was first class. The choice of songs was terrific. Plus we got some children up on stage; plus we got buckets of water thrown around; plus we got some fart gags.

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Maybe the opening needs a little rethinking. It’s Aladdin’s arrival that really gets things going after a slightly wordy first few minutes. But that’s a minor quibble on a night which should delight the entire company and indeed everyone at the New Theatre Royal every bit as much as it did all of us. And dare we say it? For the second year running, it’s comfortably stronger than the Kings’ festive offering down the road in Southsea.

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