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by on 24 February 2019

Young Peeking into Old Peking


The Star Pantomime Group at Hampton Hill Theatre until 23rd February

A Review by Eleanor Marsh

Pantomime on a sunny spring evening (albeit in February – who says there’s no such thing as climate change?) seems a little incongruous, but the young audience waiting to see The Star Pantomime Group’s Aladdin were as full of beans and excitement as a Christmas cracker. And thus the mood was set for a traditional evening of cross-dressing, audience participation and traditional silliness.

Before I go any further – the Star Pantomime Group is run by its producer and director, Kate Turner who every year assembles a group of people together to put on a show to raise funds for a chosen charity. This year the charity is SSAFA and all credit to the actors who apparently came from as far afield as Birmingham for this week’s show that was in such a good cause.


The show opened on the streets of old Peking, with an excellent performance by the young dance troupe. Sadly there was no mention in the programme of a particular dance school, so it’s not possible to credit them, but these children were really good. In particular, their acrobatic dances were very impressive. In fact the entire show lifted whenever the chorus were on.

The principal actors were not as consistent as the chorus, however and although first night nerves may have been blamed for dropped lines there were an awful lot of them. There were also several missed technical cues, which may have gone unnoticed had the cast not drawn attention to them. The audience were slow to get going with their participation and this was not helped by Aladdin (Lewis Powysocki) saying “some more interaction would help” rather than “shall I get in the basket – shall I?”. First rule of pantomime – the audience are an additional member of the cast. Get them to work with you and you’ll have a success on your hands. Alienate them and you might as well go home in the interval. And sadly there were several moments like this, with cast members reminding others that they were in the wrong place, had forgotten lines and shouldn’t be on the stage. There was even a one to one conversation with an audience member that was nothing to do with the show and was met by deadly silence. In jokes just don’t work unless everyone is “in”.

And so the show progressed with all the traditional elements : Aladdin and Princess Jasmin looking every inch the Disney hero and heroine and singing beautifully, Evil Uncle Abanazar (Daniel Bosculescu) encouraging boos and hisses and Genies of Ring and Lamp (Chloe Besant and Rylee Hicks respectively) raising a cheer when they ran off to get married themselves. And the story of Aladdin and the Princess Jasmin (Hayley Wheeler) of course ended happily ever after.

The young audience who had been so excited at the beginning of the evening were no less upbeat at the end and they were particularly thrilled to be able to meet the stars of the show afterwards. And this evening was all about the children. From a performance perspective this was a great showcase for the stars of tomorrow – those wonderful dancers. As for the grown-ups, they are to be admired for doing what they do for charity. The stand out performance of the evening was definitely Gemma Bennett’s Widow Twankey; she was way too glamorous but saved the day on more than one occasion; we felt safe when she was on stage and in control of proceedings.

There was a certain charm to the “amateur” nature of this performance and the goodwill with which it was received, but I couldn’t help but think it would have been even more charming in a village hall rather than the polished and professional surrounds of the Hampton Hill Theatre.

Eleanor Marsh
February 2019

Photography by Dick Burton

From → Pantomime, Reviews

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