BWW Reviews: ALADDIN, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, November 28 2014
A fun and fabulous evening was had by all at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry last night for their panto press night. This year's Christmas production is Aladdin and is jam packed full of pantomime traditions and enjoyable entertainment for the whole family. I was first introduced to the Belgrade's seasonal show last year when watching Jack and the Beanstalk and even though they are on a smaller scale than that of the Birmingham Hippodrome or Wolverhampton Grand, they are definite rivals in the panto stakes based on enjoyment level.
Ian Westbrook's set design fits the Belgrade Main Stage wonderfully and is bursting with colour and levels. A particularly lavish one is the 'Frozen-esque' walkdown scenery with beautiful costumes to match (designed by Cleo Pettitt). Widow Twankey's costumes are definite highlights in the fashion department including a 'Vampish' washing powder outfit for the laundry slosh routine and a pagoda-style dress worn in the Royal Palace. The lighting design by Pete Kramer serves its purpose and emphasises the set and costumes capably. Tecnhically the show was excellent with its special effects including a magic flying carpet. Initially the mechanism could not be seen and was very magical for the children sat around me. However, as the carpet moved towards centre stage, the lighting did not seem to disguise the machinery completely which was a bit of a shame.
Iain Lauchlan does his three-way turn as performer, writer and director with great ease and pizzazz yet again and has a created a well-structured panto with the correct balance of elements. His amusing laugh is enough on its own to get the children in the audience laughing their heads off. Jenny Phillips' choreography is probably the only below par component of the show. Understandably those routines that the cast want the audience to replicate are basic but I felt some of the performers on stage seemed capable of a higher difficulty level.
Craig Hollingsworth as Wishee Washee is also a welcome return from last year's panto and he is excellent with audience interaction and improvisation. Sion Lloyd plays the manacing baddie Abanazar and it was very pleasing to watch him doing this kind of role as a complete opposite to Brian in Avenue Q which I had seen him in previously! William Finkenrath is also hilarious as the Emperor with his constant 'bonging' of the gong and almost channels Kim Jong-Il from Team America with his accent - of course without the bad language!
Aladdin at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry runs until Saturday 10 January 2015.