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Review - Aladdin

Hackney Empire

Playing until: 31st December 2023

Review {AD-PR Invite}

Not unlike most pantomimes, this is a story based on a much-loved fairy tale, this time, transporting the audience from the Arabian city of Agrabah to the modern-day Hack-ne-lah. Despite the many humourous and conceptual changes, the core components of Aladdin are still very easily recognisable in this production, including a street urchin chasing after a beautiful girl from a rich family, a magical villain, and an all-powerful genie that will grant your wishes.

The story begins with Abby-Na-Zaaar! (Natasha Lewis) seeking the magical lamp, but in need of somebody who is pure of heart to help her retrieve it. This is where Aladdin (Fred Double) comes in, whose only desire is to improve the livelihood of the people of Hack-ne-lah. Along the way, Aladdin falls head over heels for Jazz (Isabella Mason), daughter of the richest man in the area, Mildew Funk (George Heyworth). Abby-Na-Zaaar! Seizes the opportunity to persuade Aladdin fetch the lamp and to seek out the treasures in order to qualify as one of Jazz’s suitors.

While the plot is centred around Aladdin’s quest, it is really the side characters that dazzle the audience. In this version, Aladdin, Jazz and even the Genie are the hardworking characters that lay the foundation for the side characters to shine. The traditional pantomime roles are flawlessly executed by Widow Twankey (Clive Rowe) and Wishy (Rishi Manuel), Aladdin’s mother and brother, who are the sources of slapstick comedy and audience interactions. While Aladdin and Jazz get the more sensational musical numbers to remind the audience that they are still watching a fairy tale, these are not the characters that will bring the audience the most laughter. Fans of the traditional Aladdin will be disappointed that there isn’t a single song from the Disney movie, instead, we are graced with snippets or re-worked versions of pop songs and a flying magic carpet that will make you say wow.

It is Widow Twankey’s outrageous costumes (a hand purse, a tool box and a lamp to name a few), and Wishy’s clumsiness and constant need for validation that will spark the most fun. At one point, Wishy and Widow Twankey literally showers sweeties and shoots water (or I hope it’s water) at the audience. Like many audience members, I could only try to block the water with my programme and pray that I won’t get too wet in a bitterly cold winter night.

The seasoned creative team ticks every box to entertain the whole family by including audience participations, actions, sweetie distribution, and adult humours hidden in plain sight.


Based on the ideas of: Will Brenton, Clive Rowe

Director: Clive Rowe

Music and lyrics: Steve Edis

Musical Director: Alex Maynard

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