Theatres are in constant pursuit of a fair rewriting of Aladdin. Originally created (and shockingly worse than the Disney take) at a time when there was less knowledge of other cultures, and stories were a powerful way of controlling the masses through fear, things are different now.
But no excuses. Traditional stories need to be updated to make sense of a changing world (Oh no they don’t! Oh yes, they do!).
The Big Tiny has taken steps to make its Aladdin tale – at the Millgate Arts Centre in Delph until December 31 – an empowering one. But it doesn’t compromise on the laughs and is traditional in form. Rather than the Aladdin who benefits from enslavement and riches, its show is very much about writing your own story and being happy no matter where you live or how much money you have. It’s the perfect message for 2022.
Joyously fun-filled and totally centred around kids having a great time, with fabulous costumes and a sparkling cast, there were plenty of opportunities for audience members to shout out, catch sweets, and be in control of the chaos. Silly fun is time well spent, forgetting about the cost and the cold. There’s a lot to be said for being able to be a kid.
From the start, with some ingenious audience participation, a great theatrical gag becomes important to the story. No spoilers here, you have to see the show, but it ties in so well to the narrative. And the way the script leads us teetering on the brink of an unhappy ending was a poignant moment for me.
Abanazar (David Herzog) triumphed, telling everyone that the bad guys always win. There was a deathly silence in the auditorium, empty of the usual booing of the villain. It felt like a calm acceptance that disaster and disappointment is what we have come to accept.
That might be the saddest thing anyone has said about a panto so let me end on a happy note. Baddies beware (again, I won’t spoil it for you) because behind the scenes you can be sure there will be someone who can turn things around, someone you least expect. One small and brilliant trick can save the day.
Also, there was an actual flying carpet. The Big Tiny was told it was impossible to achieve a flying carpet in a smaller venue, but there’s always someone who can change the narrative. A carpet did fly, Jasmine was united with Aladdin regardless of home or status, Wishy and Gene travelled the world, and the audience had a final sing-song before heading out into the frosty night.
Main image credit: Howard Barlow
Aladdin is showing at the Millgate until December 31, 2022. Click here for ticket prices and show times.
To read our review of The Big Tiny’s panto Dick Whittington, currently showing at The Met in Bury, click here.