Aladdin, SNADS at The Exchange

WRITER and director Ben Crocker has forged a reputation for creating quirky, ultra-local versions of well known pantomimes, so Sturminster Newton Amateur Dramatic Society, aka SNADS, could hardly go wrong with his take on the immortal Aladdin. The story, calling as it does for changes of continent, an instant pop-up palace and of course a magic carpet, throws up all sorts of challenges for an amateur company working on a wide stage with minimal props and a hired sound system that allows only a very few hours of practice and rehearsal.

Nothing daunted, SNADS director Martyn Lilley and his intrepid cast have pulled off a thoroughly entertaining production in half-term week, giving opportunities for several young performers to join the company stalwarts to unfold the tale of the avaricious baddie Abanazar, the love-struck Aladdin, his much-married washerwoman mum Widow Twankey, the bloodthirsty Empress of China, and the magical genies who make it all come right in the end.

Martin had to step into the damely petticoats of the winsome Widow just a few days before the first night, and has done a remarkable job. He joins the charismatic and energetic Jessica Allan in the title role, with Sophia Olford (also the show’s choreographer) as the normal-life-craving Princess, Toby Greenfield as the fake “uncle” Abanazar, Alice Ralph as the knockabout Wishee Washee (building up great audience relationships) and Lina Felsa and Hope Corfield as the all-dancing all-singing genies of the lamp and ring. Add in Sarah Phillips as the haughty Empress and Eve Styles-Saunders as the endearingly naughty panda, with Fiona Dewett and Robert Wood as the comical Chinese policepeople Ping and Pong, and the story romps along to the wedding walkdown.

Well done to Annie Henschel and Jenny Newman for the spectacular costumes.

The opening matinee, with its squealing, cheering schoolchildren, provides a chance to iron out some of the inevitable glitches, most of which surround the sound balance in these days when local pantomimes are no longer accompanied by the live piano playing and drumming where were geared at following the on-stage action. It’s another sign of the times.

If the audience reaction was anything to go by, SNADS are in for another seasonal hit.


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