JOYCE MCMILLAN on ALADDIN at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 13.12.13.
4 stars ****
IT’S LONG, it’s sprawling, and its sparkling blue-and-orange design is so familiar, after many past outings on the King’s stage, that it seems like an old friend. Yet if you want to see the grand old Scottish panto tradition in its most unreconstructed form, complete with almost every explosive ingredient in the old-fashioned panto book, then this big, loud Aladdin, presented by First Family Entertainment at the Glasgow King’s, is probably the show for you.
There’s certainly no messing about with the story, in Eric Potts’s script, which dives straight down the line from the first appearance of the wicked wizard Abanazar.. And if there’s a slight lack of first-rank panto talent in the key roles of Widow Twankey and her useless son Wishee Washee – Des Clarke is no Gerard Kelly in the role of Wishee, although he delivers some of the great man’s favourite routines with a will – there’s plenty of compensatory fun to be had from a splendid Gavin Mitchell as Abanazar, and Karen Dunbar as Glasgow’s new panto icon Mary McConkey, emerging from the audience to play the Slave Of The Ring.
The pace is sometimes stodgy, most of the music is shouty nonsense without a sweet love-song to be heard, there are ugly advertising films pre-show and during the interval, and the finale looks like an explosion in a feathers-and-fabric shop. Yet there are also plenty of fine Glasgow jokes, old and new, and some vintage sequences of traditional panto nonsense. And by the time the cast roars out its final roof-lifting version of Proud Mary – as strange and rousing a closing song as ever graced a panto – the flaws no longer matter, and the big communal celebration that is the Glasgow pantomime has triumphed again.