Ali Baba & The Forty Thieves by Alan Frayn

Date 26th January 2019
Society Woodchurch Players
Venue Woodchurch Memorial Hall
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Emma Priest
Musical Director Mike Headling
Choreographer Kim Parmee


Author: Anne Lawson

A not so often performed panto, this version was awash with bright colour and full of eastern promise - encountering an ex-belly dancer Dame, a dopey houseboy, a prince, a princess from afar, a woodcutter, sultan, lovable camel, immortal cat as good and canine as evil – Chum and Pal jokes, a cookery class, robbers, a bazaar, a secret cave, sand dancing and royal festivities for right royal double wedding supported by the good citizens of Bagdad and young Babes. With storytelling, good music, atmospherics, snazzy lighting, a lot of bad joke laughs and audience participation, the robbers of Old Bagdad and the King of Thieves were defeated, good restored, and no beheadings. 

With a large named cast plus young performers under Emma’s direction, Kim’s dance movements and Mike’s musical arrangements this year’s panto was enthusiastically performed. Two memorable features of direction appealed – the continuous entrance of the 40 thieves into the secret cave and the great jar stoppers – hats!

Colourful creative scenery and props were produced by the hard-working team designing, constructing, and painting, transporting the audience to the many places visited – Old Bagdad Bazaar with domed buildings and winding streets, a forested landscape, Fatima’s well stocked kitchen, secret Cave that magically opened, a sumptuous Banqueting Hall,  and all the rich trimmings of the east. Well prepared personal props included sacks of loot, jars of oil, sabres, sparkling jewels, wood choppers' bundles, a snake charmed out of his box by music, oh so many used! 

The trio of young technicians, Tim, Rocket and Eliot worked hard to produce some interesting sound and lighting effects and with the new kit their expertise grows.  I love their enthusiasm for theatre. 

Costumes ranged from outrageous to sand dance stripes, fez hats, whirling black dervish disguise, shining headdresses, flowing coats and hareem dancers all beautifully clad.  Sandals very good indeed, together with hair styling and finishing touches.  Feline features of Caterina immortal spirit – Sheila Ross was well face-painted to create an Elaine Page ‘Cats’ lookalike. I particularly liked her mouse wand. Dawn O’Bryan barked at us as shaggy dog Alsasia, the black cloaked baddie, whilst Jess Smith and Amelia Bundock perfected footwork as a spritely camel.

Singing may not be Kim Parmee’s strength, but her personality shone through as Ali and her creative movement was well performed by all and she’s a master at thigh slapping! Jelly babies galore from Fatima Fandango voluptuous Richard Fair went down well with the children and her dance of the seven veils commendable. Kaylyn Van Wyk was a delightful Marjana, Ali’s slave girl, whilst tall Charlotte Gray was elegant Crown Prince Haroun, with good diction and vocals and together with Tatjana Mager-Burr as Princess Jasmine added to the youth support. Hattie Perrian as storyteller Scheherazade paired well with experienced Mike Headling as The Sultan. Daisy Fermor worked well as Mustafa Screwloose the houseboy and was game for action!  Hapless robbers came in the form of Grabbit and Bashim namely Val Smith and Linda Holmes with height differences adding to the partnership.  Good costumes and I liked the ‘L’ plates.  King of Thieves – Asbad was portrayed as a dark, moustached character with good stance and commanding in speech most effective Dylan O’Bryan. Completing the named parts, Brian Smith the Grand Vizier made a perfect Dad to Scheherazade. Ensemble and Babes really enjoyed themselves, very confident with their words and movement.