Panto fun with Ali Baba

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

ALL THE fun of a traditional Scottish panto is to be had up at Carnoustie High School Theatre this week, as Carnoustie Theatre Club take on David Swan’s version of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

There’s a strong script, good performers, the song-choice is excellent in terms of both giving the audience a singsong and guiding the story along.

Most importantly, producer Carolyn Cheape has succeeded in bringing great energy to the stage and her clever casting plays to the performers’ strengths.

The opening song sets the scene nicely and from the moment Andy Gilbride starts his opening scene as Ali Baba, the barber of Baghdad, the bad jokes start rolling and the pace keeps building.

The producer has updated the script with excellent topical gags, some up-to-the-minute songs and plenty of local references.

All the staple characters are present and correct – a hissable villain, a dim hero, a good fairy, a cute love-struck duo, a couple of knockabout comics, a panto dame and a camel.

First there’s Audrey Doherty as Olive Baba, Ali’s vile sister-in-law married to his villainous, money-grasping brother, Kasim. Then John McSkimming as the hilarious Fatima Kebab, owner of the cafe just across the bazaar from Ali’s barbershop. Fatima gets a few good outfits and has a more vigorous input to the comedy as she chases after Ali and helps drive the plot along.

There are strong turns from most of the other principal characters, too. Linzy McCreadie plays Pollyanna Jones, whose dotty professor dad (David Ross) is looking for a lost tomb. Pollyanna’s love interest is Rhum Baba, Ali’s son played with expertise by Grant Roach. They add greatly to the singing and dancing power of the ensemble. The comedy duo Bubble (Lesley Ritchie) and Squeak (Ali Laing) slot in hilarious comedic moments throughout.

A suitably wicked performance as evil Kasim, Jerry Swinley plays his part to the full, a natural panto villain if ever I’ve seen one!

Muriel Gordon as good fairy Crystal is beautifully pitched, whether in disguise as an old crone or as her bright, shimmering self.

There are great performances right down the cast – David Cheape as Mustapha Nana has a great slapstick scene with Ali Baba. A special mention must go to Susan Crabb and Eve Swinley as Vanilla and Delight who manage a delicious mix of sexy and slapstick and not forgetting the Camel (George Doherty and Grant Wilson)!

The chorus perform splendidly throughout with of course the youngsters in the cast providing the definite cute factor.

I have not seen a better panto performance for a long time. It was funny, interesting and well choreographed. The set this year was made entirely by stage manager Peter White and his team and what an excellent job they made. The props fitted in well and the costumes were bright and colourful as was the necessary make-up. The sound and lighting as usual were expertly created.

This is classic panto at its best and something that Carolyn Cheape excels in. She makes the most of a strong cast who obviously know how to have fun on-stage themselves.

A huge cast ensures a packed theatre of supporters and the enthusiasm from both actors and audience makes this show a really fun, family event. I can’t wait to see next year’s.

JR