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Aladdin

IN the Pantosphere, a well-judged degree of familiarity can breed whoop-de-doo contentment in an audience.

It's more than likely even the little tiddlers will know the story that's behind all the glitz and funny business here, and more than likely the young ones, especially, will know the pop songs that become the stuff of dance routines. One Direction's hit, Live While We're Young, sees the King's blisteringly hot to trot dance troupe go crazy-crazy-crazy with near-gymnastic moves when Aladdin (Kieran Brown) and his Princess (Jenny Douglas) finally escape Abanazer's clutches and seal their future with a song and a snog.

While time-honoured boxes are ticked here - from the first evil cackle of the baddie to the singalong cloot - the King's is out to create a new tranche of in-house traditions, based on the talents of familiar faces who seem set to become the well-loved regulars of the future. So last year's gambit - where a certain Mrs McConkie (aka Karen Dunbar) gets up on stage to help a squashed fairy and ends up playing the part - is rolled out again, and again has the audience in fits of laughter. Will it be back next year? Will it become a tradition? Who knows?

What's already well established is Dunbar's blissful affinity with panto mayhem. On she comes in the scanties worn by the Slave of the Ring, and proceeds to shimmy and swivel her way through wise-cracking patter and daft situations - the old ballet-with-balloon routine bursts with fresh comedy when she and Wishee (a buoyantly engaging Des Clarke) set about distracting Abanazer.

Ahhhh - Abanazer! Gavin Mitchell slips into the gold-encrusted costume and the darkly menacing tones of the wicked wizard with a relish that would be alarming, if it wasn't so superbly arch. At over two-and-a-half hours long, the young 'uns in the audience might flag.

The rest of us lap up the flouncing foolery of Gordon Cooper's Dame, the added comedy of Steven McNicoll's bumbling polis and the sheer brash, spectacular showiness of the whole shebang.

This review appeared in later editions of Friday's Herald

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