HULL New Theatre’s brazen Aladdin is billed as The 3D Adventure Of A Lifetime, which might raise an eyebrow in the household of Avatar’s James Cameron.
What’s more, while theatre may be a natural form of 3D entertainment, that has not stopped the rise of multi-media stage shows appropriating cinema for theatrical use.
Berwick Kaler’s high-speed, silent movie-spoofing short films have become a compulsory interjection into the York Theatre Royal pantomime, and now mass pantomime producers QDos Entertainment have embraced the latest revival of 3D by making it the commercial selling point of this winter’s Hull panto.
You don’t have to wear the big yellow specs throughout Carole Todd’s loud, brash show; just perch them on the head until summoned to enter the 3D world of Aladdin on three occasions: in the cave and on the magic carpet ride and for the liberation of the Genie of the Lamp.
Courtesy of Amazing Interactives 3D Special Effects design team, led by creative director Tim Dear, the Genie appears only in 3D screen form, his big red shape looming over you, rather too reminiscent of a rubber hot water bottle.
The usual 3D effects come into play as you dodge flying rocks, swords, weaponry, creepy crawlies, a dinosaur and a crocodile’s giant mouth, but there is novelty in being able to “rub the magic lamp as it appears in front of your nose”.
This technology has a long way to go to catch up with the 3D possibilities of modern cinema but certainly the children screamed the house down. So, job done on that score, even if the Genie falls well short of being magical.
The stars of the show in human flesh are a typical Hull New Theatre “celebrity” collection: the former X Factor act Chico, veteran children’s TV presenter Stu Francis and Liverpool soap star Dean Sullivan, once the very troubled Jimmy Corkhill in the deceased Brookside.
Chico strolls his sparkly Latino way through Aladdin’s journey, wasting no time before singing his novelty hit It’s Chico Time, but his singing voice is often submerged and he needs to up his game. If he’s Chico, Francis’s Wishee Washee is cheeky, indeed sometimes too risqué in his inappropriate physical language. Sullivan was once soap’s most scary, nutty character, but his Abanazar has to feed on thin rations from writer Jon Conway.
Elsewhere, on the one hand, Chinese actress Annie Guo graces the stage as the demure Princess; on the other, David Lawrence’s Emperor mangles the English language in compulsory Oriental-mocking panto fashion. Not much room is left for Christopher Chilton’s low-key, rather sweet dame Widow Twankey, while nodding insurance dog Churchill pops up for the briefest of “Oh No” cameos. Well, every dog has his play, as they say.
* Aladdin, The 3D Adventure Of A Lifetime, Hull New Theatre, until January 9 2011. Box office: 01482 226655 or hullcc.gov.uk/hullnewtheatre