Aladdin And The Magic Lamp

Creation's witty and wonderful Christmas family show, full of joyful songs, colourful characters and belly laughs.
North Wall Arts Centre, December 2012

December 12, 2012
Creative Creation has done it – again. Creation Theatre never goes for the simple approach; its pantomimes are never mainstream. They don’t follow the tired old formula: “Oh yes they do; oh no they don’t” formula and fairy godmothers cannot be guaranteed, but that is what makes them so interesting. As the writer Lizzie Hopley says, her brief was to write a family show – not a panto.

To do this she went back to the very roots of the story of Aladdin, apparently a 17th Century French translation of the One Thousand and One Nights. Aladdin is a young man living in poverty; his father dies early in the story and the Sorcerer (the “baddie”) presents himself as his guardian angel. 

As always, Creation works wonders with a very small cast. Timothy Allsop plays the Sorcerer; a very versatile actor whom I last saw in the summer when he was charging around as Roger Bannister in The Four Minute Mile at the Iffley Road running track. He and the other six players were seldom off the stage with each member playing at least two parts. They rely on gifted set designers and choreographers to ensure that things run as quickly and smoothly as much bigger productions; I didn’t spot a hiccup in any of the transitions and I was sat right next to the stage.

There are quite a few musical numbers, a couple are ballads but most are funny and upbeat and all the cast were capable singers. Anna O’Loughlin, the Ring Jinnee, brought a bit of the circus to the theatre with her high level antics – far more magical than the high wire in the big touring circuses.  A thumbs up for this from husband and son (the former no doubt drawing up pole dancing comparisons, the latter secretly wondering if she’d fall off – she didn’t); it was great.

The telling of this story necessitates some dark moments and whether they would prove too much for the very young will be down to the individual child. Those in the audience last night seemed enthralled. What might be a little more difficult for very small children is the pace and length of the show; the jinnee (usually “genie” but “jinn” is the original Arabic spelling, I’m told) does not appear until nearly the end of the first half and the show itself finishes at 10pm. This might have put me off if I had a five-year-old with school in the morning to consider.

Creation takes risks; that’s what we love about it. Its outdoor productions are the highlight of the summer – when we have a summer and this year’s has cost them dearly. Therefore it has launched a fund raising campaign; the company needs £50K to survive.  For fans of original theatre in Oxford this is wake-up call; otherwise we’ll lose it. So simply go and support them. 

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