Panto makes a storming return to the De Montfort Hall after a 20-year absence, in celebration of the venue’s 100th birthday. It couldn’t have wished for better in this collaboration between Susie McKenna of the Hackney Empire and Imagine Theatre, with its strong track record in Leicestershire.
The show has McKenna’s stamp all over it. It’s affectionate, clean, fast-moving, spectacular and bang up to date. Daniella Bowen’s ponytailed, thigh-slapping Aladdin inspires confidence with her classic head-up, hands-on-waist stance, a reminder of how a Principal Boy should be. And nothing is one-dimensional, with dialogue seemingly tailor-made for the actors playing the parts.
So there are lots of Scottish jokes for the wonderful Hardeep Singh Kohli as the Genie of the Lamp, and Jocelyn Jee Esien and Rina Fatania are given full rein as the very individual and energetic Empress of China and Genie of the Ring. Beautifully executed tap numbers such as Don’t Stop Me Now fill De Montfort’s large stage. There’s bhangra too in this melting-pot of cultures. Carmina the Camel sings in the voice of Sharon D Clarke, and there’s a very impressive dragon. Best of all is the percussive accompaniment, essential to traditional panto and a running commentary in itself.
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