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Aladdin By Chipperfield Theatre Group

2nd of April 2008

With Biggins taking a well earned break from panto this year, it seemed the precedent of “out with the old and in with the new” had spread to Chipperfield Theatre Groups production of Aladdin, as some of the younger cast members got their chance to shine in lead roles.
Though traditionally a part given to a female, James East sensitively portrayed Aladdin and the chemistry between he and the wonderfully cheeky Jack Marchant as brother Wishee, immediately warmed the hearts of the audience. This relationship was mirrored by the female leads. Newcomer Rachael Guy was fittingly sugary as the princess, dove-tailing nicely with Amba-May Bottrils more subdued portrayal of her lady in waiting. The inevitable interchange between the sexes which provided the love interest was well acted and believable.
Of course, some experienced hands were on duty for back up. Bill Calcutt continued the tradition of brilliant Chipperfield dames with his endearingly bumptious performance as Widow Twanky. And Sarah-Jayne Bottrill once more showcased her considerable talents as the Spirit of the Ring. It was a fun, well paced and colourful production with perhaps, given the limitations of the some of the casts singing abilities, one song too many. The script was a bit Two Ronnies meets Jim Davidson and in the main worked better than you might think. There was clever wordplay, quips and puns aplenty. That said, whilst the scripts risqué tinge was welcome, there were one or two uncomfortable moments. The comedy well of amusing Chinese surnames was drained dry and one dreadful and offensive joke about “chinks in the curtains” was worthy of a Prince Philip tour of east Asia.
But that sour point didnt detract from a hugely enjoyable evening of mirth and merriment for which all involved must take their plaudits. Interestingly, the programme notes informed us that Aladdin was the first production ever put on by the group fifteen years ago when Jack Merchant and James East were mere pups in the childrens chorus. Hopefully, the Genie Of The Lamp will grant my wish – that the Chipperfield Theatre Groups production line keeps churning out talent of their calibre for the next fifteen years as well.
Jason Cox

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