IF you want to keep the children entertained this festive period transport them to far off China and Arabia with Aladdin and his magical lamp at Motherwell Theatre.
After last year’s presentation of Beauty and the Beast, producers Spillers return to a more traditional pantomime this year with a high energy retelling of the classic tale.
Ian ‘Sheepie’ Smith has returned to Motherwell for his fourth consecutive year and right from the off had the audience, primarily made up of pupils from Glencairn Primary, eating out of his hand as Wishee Washee.
A word of warning, his ‘special dance’ will become slightly tiresome for adults in the audience, but the children couldn’t wait to get up and join in pretty much every time he appeared - no doubt many were still doing it on the walk back to school.
But he was far from the only comic relief joined by Mark Hudson as his ‘mum’ Widow Twankey in a never ending parade of ridiculous costumes, playing the dame at Motherwell for the second year in a row . . . and you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of ‘her’.
The laughs continued with the trio of Jamie Bannerman as the Emperor of China and Alan Mirren and Motherwell College graduate Jamie Lemetti as Sgt Ping and PC Pong of the Chinese Police Force who plot the arrest of Aladdin for stealing apples from the royal orchard.
Indeed Alan very nearly stole Sheepie’s thunder in the second half as he switched to a ridiculous Windsor Davies-esque Sergeant Major for a bizarre laundry scene and after being the baddie last year maybe found a more natural part.
We even got a funny Genie as when Scott King is finally released from the lamp towards the end of the first half he summons up the ghost of Dick Emery which came as something of a surprise.
However, not everyone was there to get laughs and the star of the show was Oliver Patterson as the wicked Abanazar and it was just as well he declared he liked being booed as the kids were only too happy to lay it on him - he even broke out in song, which is a little unusual for a panto villain.
Of course Aladdin wouldn’t be complete without the titular character played by Martin Clark and his love interest Storm-Skyler McClure as Princess Jasmine.
The sight of Aladdin surfing on a magic carpet is certainly a sight that will live long in the memory for the youngsters who clearly had no idea how it was pulled off.
Otherwise, on his return to Motherwell after a year’s absence, Martin played a welcome counterpoint as the straight man to the chaos surrounding him.
Storm-Skyler certainly has the looks that made it fairly obvious why Aladdin would risk life and limb to go along with Abanazar’s scheme in pursuit of fortune, and had a nice easy charm, but maybe as the only female in the main cast could have had a little more to do.
The actors were backed up by the Lisa Jayn Dancers and Lorna Thomas, who also made occasional appearances as the Slave of the Ring, who put in a power of work as the citizens of Peking, palace servants, Aladdin’s groupies and Abanazar’s henchmen/harem, with some impressive moves.
The adults are also joined by three teams of six juvenile dancers from all over North Lanarkshire who were successful in auditions earlier this year and they actually do a really good job and are given plenty of opportunity to show their fledgling talent.
Despite being aimed squarely at the kids, the mix of the traditional story mixed with modern references (such as X-Factor, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, even the Motherwell Times get a mention), combined with some general absurdity, should provide enough entertainment for the whole family.
Aladdin is performed until Saturday, January 5, for ticket details call the box office on 01698 403120.