Fringe Box



Review: Aladdin – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 16 Dec, 2016
Updated on: 16 Dec, 2016

Peter Gordon as Widow Twankee, Jamie Brook as Wishee Washee and Ray Griffiths as PC Pongo

By Ferenc Hepp

So 2016 is almost “Behind you!”, panto season has kicked off all round the country, “Oh yes it has!”, and Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre is no exception. This year it is the turn of Aladdin with some familiar faces as well as Guildford debuts.

The opening number is to the tune of Our House by Madness, who also made an appearance on the X Factor Final recently. Anyone would think they have reunion tour to sell?

This is soon followed by the introduction of one of the regular members of cast, Jamie Brook, as Wishee Washee with his traditional Brummie twang, which he is now expected but still makes us laugh.

In fact, Jamie’s sense of humour (both as part of the script and when improvising) and energy is just infectious and constant throughout the show, which is exactly what you need for panto.

Emma Thornett’s Aladdin was full of energy, Jamie Brook shared an infectious sense of humour as Wishee Washee, while Peter Gordon’s Widow Twankee was brilliantly performed

I particularly loved his aftershave gag: “Breadcrumbs… it’s cheap but birds love it!” With the political events round the world this year, I was expecting puns and references to Brexit and Trump, and surely enough we had both, from scriptwriter Jamie Smith, in quick succession within the first 20 minutes.

Another Yvonne Arnaud regular, returning for his eleventh pantomime is Guildford’s and Eagle Radio’s very own PG, Peter Gordon. I remember his debut 11 years ago and from a bit of a shaky beginning all those years ago he has now become an absolute natural as the panto dame.

Ray Griffiths of Willow and Stars Wars fame shares a scene with Peter Gordon of Eagle Radio

His Widow Twankey is funny, confident, cheeky and brilliantly performed. His costumes are as outrageous as ever and his facial expressions are priceless. Kit Hesketh-Harvey returns as the panto villain and he portrays Abanazar with an evil flare but cheeky fun at the same time, thigh slapping Aladdin, played by Emma Thornett, is full of energy and interacts well with everyone and you can’t help but smile at cheeky PC Pongo, played by Ray Griffiths of Willow and Star Wars fame.

The very talented Janie Dee is the Genie of the Lamp, however, compared to the energy and fun of the other member of the cast, I did feel Janie was lacking some of that on the night I was there. Charlotte O’Rourke and Rachel Knowles complete the main cast who are both graduates of Guildford School of Acting; they both make their characters their own and give 100% which was appreciated by the full house.

The pantomine was choreography was by Jill Bennet and directed by Gerry Tebbutt

Well directed directed by Gerry Tebbutt and choreographed by Jill Francis the juvenile performers look very confident and always have a beaming smile, the boy dancers occasionally concentrate a bit too much on their moves, which are not overly complicated this year, therefore could afford to smile a little more but all worked well with the main cast.

I was delighted to see the return of the 12 Days of Christmas number which is messier and funnier than ever, and that children are still invited onto the stage for the songsheet number with Wishee Washee, however, there are no words flown in and no competition between the two halves of the audience which I did miss.

We certainly had lots of fun, along with the numerous cubs and brownies who were also in attendance on press night. This show has a bit of everything; a variety of song styles, jokes for kids and grown-ups, camp, colour, lots of custard pies and a sense of escapism that only panto can offer. You can even take some photos at the end, but only when prompted by the cast.

Aladdin runs until the 8 January and tickets are available via the website: or by calling the box office on 01483 440000.

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