What: Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Where: Aubyn Live Theatre, St Aubyn St, Hastings
When: April 17 to April 25. Tickets at Eventfinda
Reviewed by Keith Russell
Aubyn Live's committee sat staring at their darkened stage deep in discussion: "What show are we going to perform for these school holidays?"
Thoughtfully director Wendy Beauchamp uttered the immortal words, "Open Sesame" and on to the stage stepped Scheherazade - confidently played by both Ruby Bradbury and Alice Monteith - who declared "Have I a tale for you".
With a clap of their hands they were joined by Kamil the flatulence-prone camel holding a copy of English playwright Ben Crocker's traditional pantomime Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
Using the magic of theatre along with a thunderous passing of wind from Daniel Bowman and Cathy Hosken as Kamil, the curtains parted to reveal a bustling scene from ancient Baghdad and our journey into thievery, magic, singing, dancing and romance began.
Luke Perry was a brave Ali Baba, nicely offset by Ruth Stevens as his love interest Safiya, who projected intelligence along with a lovely singing voice.
Anton Hosken as Cassim had the hard job of being chopped into little pieces and then being put back together by Fab Rick, played by Reece Bisley who will come looking for your shoulder during the play.
Hosken's wife Sharon was well played by Maria Greville, and giving a high-energy performance as the villain was Thomas Monteith.
His band of thieves were just too lovable to be bad, while the large ensemble moved and sang with style and projection.
The most important role is always the "dame" and Stuart Perry has never failed to impress me, or should that be terrify me, as he roamed the audience looking for interaction. In his role as Mum Baba he was confident, loveable and hard-working as he led the encouragement of audience participation. An often overlooked ""character" in this story is "you" the audience, whose reaction will determine the pleasure generated by the cast for you.
Choreography by Kayleigh Purvis was well devised to suit the mixed abilities and the cast did justice to her talent and dedication. Choral direction was under the control of Bridget Graves and director Beauchamp ensured a quick pace, so that the songs fitted in with the action. Professional, bright costumes and a clever set along with good sound and lighting created the wonderful atmosphere that added energy to this production.
Pantomime is traditionally a family outing where different generations enjoy the same story, for the adults the jokes are double-layered and the underlining messages of greed and the trials of love can be seen. For children it is all about the music, dancing, slapstick comedy, over-the-top villains, audience participation where fun is expected, and the road to a happy ending is strewn with disasters.
This one is excellent school holiday entertainment, so my suggestion is to take a child, preferably one you know or failing that, go by yourself and become a child for the evening - you will not regret it.