Thomas W. Hodgkinson


By Susie McKenna
Hackney Empire, London

Laying into a panto feels like kicking a Labrador. Boo, hiss! Instead, let’s focus on the positive. This production of Aladdin, which marks the 20th anniversary of pantomime at the Hackney Empire, has an enjoyably light-footed, heavy-lidded turn from Clive Rowe as Widow Twankey. There’s a cute dancing panda and a terrifically well-staged flight on a dragon. But that, I’m afraid, is all there is to say on the positive side. Oh no it isn’t! My four-year-old son, Nicholas, loved it. He didn’t wonder why Aladdin (a beaming Gemma Sutton) was dressed like a cross between a cheerleader and an air hostess. Nor why the wicked Abanazar (Tony Timberlake channelling Michael Howard) couldn’t enter the cave himself and grab the magic lamp, but had to get Aladdin to do it. He didn’t gag at the gags or sag at the songs, though the former were hoary as hell and the latter karaoke standard. Oh yes they were! He admired the rippling torso of Kat B as Juno the Genie, felt kinship with the panda and, for the finale, was on his feet with the other kids, clapping in double time. As for me, I felt glad to beable to say, panto-style: it’s behind me!