Date 12th January 2019
Society Winton Players
Venue Festival Hall, Petersfield
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Jane Blower and Ryan Watts
Musical Director Tony Blackford
Choreographer Lucy Davies, Teresa Butcher and Joss Massie


Author: Mark Donalds

Good old traditional panto! Just what we need to brighten up the dull days of January after the sparkle of Christmas has been packed away. And with this spectacular production of Aladdin, Winton Players has really brightened up life in Petersfield!

Director Jane Blower, assisted by Ryan Watts, has assembled a cast of thousands, or so it seemed as they filled the stage with energy, life and colour. Right from the outset, we knew we were in for a treat and everyone on stage, right down to the tiniest, performed with confidence and looked like they were totally involved and having a great time.

Joff Lacey as Wishee Washee was full of breezy, upbeat energy and soon got the audience shouting for him if anyone approached the duck that he left on the edge of the stage - obviously a past master at working a live audience. John Whitaker as Abanazar was a great villain, plotting, glowering and raging to great effect. In total contrast, Phill Humphries was a very affable Widow Twankey, constantly frustrated by the two idiots Minnie Wong and Winnie Wong – played with great chemistry and perfect timing by Cindy Graves and Sarah Whitaker.

Emily Watts (Princess Lotus Blossom) and Rachel Spiller (Aladdin) were well paired. Both have good stage presence and singing voices to match, and neither was as naïve and innocent as they are usually portrayed which, I felt, worked well. The genies – Grace Moritz as the Spirit of the Ring and Joss Massie as the Genie of the Lamp – both acted with great grace and style. And I mustn’t forget Camilla the Camel – a wonderful costume, endowed with great character by Abi Jenkins and Layla Hollies.

Inventive choreography (by Lucy Davis, Teresa Butcher and Joss Massie) was obviously well rehearsed and well executed throughout. I particularly liked the dance of the Cave Moths – very well performed and the costumes in the ultra violet light looked most effective. Solo and chorus singing was excellent and the five-piece band, under MD Tony Blackwell, produced a great (and varied) sound – and never too loud.

Sumptuous costumes and headgear were matched with colourful and atmospheric lighting, splendid special effects and a totally professional set that was changed with great efficiency. Take a big bow the Wardrobe Wizards, members of the Green ‘A’ Team, the Artful Bodgers and the stage manager and his crew – you really did the company proud.

One little gripe: the sound system. I was most surprised to be told during the interval that microphones were being used, because this was not evident even half-way back in the auditorium. The Festival Hall is a large space to fill and it was quite difficult to hear some of the singing and some dialogue, when there was a background sound (as in the market place and the laundry). It’s a problem I’ve encountered before at the Festival Hall and I hope it will be addressed during their forthcoming refurbishment. It most certainly did not spoil my enjoyment of this tremendous show, nor that of the rest of the audience, judging by their enthusiastic applause at the end! We all went home feeling uplifted, having enjoyed an evening of traditional panto fun.