25 years on, Manor panto is tour-de-force

Manor Operatics panto
Manor Operatics panto

IT might have reached its 25th birthday at the City Hall but there is nothing that remotely creaks or sounds tired about Manor Operatic Society’s silver jubilee pantomime, Aladdin.

Richard Bradford’s direction and production, ably assisted by Linda Kelly, is a triumph of colour, spectacle and movement – choreography has never been better!

The energy and zest never flags, and we are still having a ball after quarter of a century, with many aspects that would not be out of place on the professional, West End stage.

The sheer spontaneity of it all; and how about the spectacular finale to act one with a large, babbling brook waterfall at the back of the stage with a growing wash of choreographed colour in front of it? A theatrical tour de force!

Everyone is immersed and caught up in it. A mass of humanity sways to We Are Family.

No! No! No! The concerted pleading for the Princess not to swap Aladdin’s old lamp coveted by arch-villain Abanazar for a new one is not only heard, an unspoken fear is felt.

The fiend’s apparent death is greeted with spontaneous applause. It’s another ‘villainous’ triumph for Simon Hance playing him to the hilt with all the ham he can muster and certainly knows how to work an audience.

Here surely is the main factor behind the ongoing success of Manor’s pantomime, connecting with its audience from the start. No matter how ludicrous they are, or how daft the happenings, the audience somehow becomes part of the performance and they love it.

‘Peeking in Peking’, word play on Chinese equivalents of English consonants – or lack of them – is mainly put in the mouths of a couple of Peking Keystone Cops, Hu Dun Pong (Chris Hanlon) and Yu Dun Wong (Liam Gordon).

Holly Parker-Strawson affects an American accent as a blue-skinned Genie of the Lamp. As a camp Spirit of the Ring on Abanazar’s hand, Gary Rossiter’s pouting is affected by giggles. “You want to try that again?” suggests Simon Hance out of character.

Bob Spink, another master of ad-libbing, especially across the footlights, is a down-to-earth, matter of fact Widow Twankey – she used to be known as Jessica Ennis, you know!

As the chalk and cheese sons of Widow Twankey, the younger talents of Emma Holmes (Aladdin) and James Smith (Wishee-Washee) continue to impress.

And there are two new kids on block well worth keeping an eye on, Christina Rice (Princess Mandarin) and Katie Dolling (So-Shy), especially the latter – a natural if ever there was one.

Oh, and watch out for the elephant!

Bernard Lee