Aladdin: A Christmas Treat for all the Family

Written by Mark Wakeman

Thur 6th December - Sun 9th December & Wed 12th December - Sun 16th December 2012

Directed by Pete Woodward

AuthorMark Wakeman

Mark Wakeman

Mark Wakeman is an amateur author, playwright, actor and and director. He started writing short stories at the age of 8 and, spurred on by positive comments from a teacher, was inspired to write many more. It wasn't until he went to university, however, that his writing achieved wider recognition when two of his situation comedy scripts (co-written with Neil Kendall) - 'The Quiet Life' and 'Helpline' were performed by the University of North London Theatre Society. The success of these two works led to a full-length thriller, 'Undue Aggravation', being taken to Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1995. Following university, he directed his own comedy 'Terror at Blagg Castle', which was produced by Goggles Theatre Company at Portsmouth Arts Centre in 1996, and Bench Theatre has produced several of his his one-act plays; 'The Unusual Suspects', 'Ice Station Zeros', 'Father for Justice', 'Lonesome Pine', 'Unworkable', 'The Big Freeze', 'Stand and Delivery' and 'The Girl in the Corner' for various 'Supernova' festivals of new writing since 2003.

Mark also wrote the 2010 Bench Christmas Production 'Cinderella', a sell out successful show!,

His novels (as yet unpublished) include works in the detective, comedy, thriller, fantasy and sci-fi genres and he hopes to one day see one of his screenplays for sit-coms, TV detectives or sci-fi/action-spy thrillers accepted by the BBC. As an actor, Mark Wakeman has been performing since he was at school. The first of many acting roles with Bench Theatre was Dr John Jobling in 'Martin Chuzzlewit' in 1990 and he frequently receives excellent reviews. He directed several one-act plays at University of North London Theatre Society and his first directing role with Bench Theatre was 'The Office Party' by John Godber in 1998. As a member of the Soop Theatre Company, he has performed improvisational comedy in their 'Dude, Where's My Script?' shows since 2008.

Wakeman won Best Original Play for 'Stand and Delivery' (2007), The Madge and Stanley Williams trophy for Best Script for 'Father for Justice' (2009) and Best Original Script for 'Girl in the Corner' (2012) all in the All-England Drama Festival. Since he joined Bench Theatre in 1990, he has been a member of both the Bench Committee and Artistic Panel, and was Editor of Bench Press for a number of years. Mark Wakeman currently has four cats and lives in Havant.

PlayAladdin

Aladdin is searching for adventure...

Princess Puddle is searching for a way to escape marrying a man she doesn't love...

The evil (and magnificently hairy) magician Nostrodominos is searching for a way to take over the kingdom and become ruler of the world..

These three people will find themselves thrown together on a great and amazing adventure, to find a long lost relic and uncover the truth behind the legend of the magic lamp...

This Christmas, Bench Theatre takes you on an amazing adventure as Aladdin must find the magic lamp to save the world!!!

A hilarious and exciting new version of the classic fairy tale from the team that brought you 'Cinderella! A Christmas Adventure'.

The Bench Production

Aladdin, A Treat for all the Family poster image

This play was staged at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.

Cast

AladdinHelen Young
Princess PuddleBeth Evans
The EmperorRoger Wallsgrove
Widow TwankyDan Finch
Sindy the SailorJo Gardner
Prince DashingThomas Hall
NostrodominosAlice Corrigan
ThingyZoe Chapman
Blunt (co-narrator)Alan Welton
Billio (co-narrator)Mark Wakeman
MalcolmPaul Millington
Gina the GenieClaire Lyne
Townspeople, Sailors and Pirates, Camels, Horses, Double Chins, Bee Gee, Priest, Exotic Dancers, Dress Maker, Villains, French Person, Dragon Statue, Theatre CaretakerTerry Smyth, Jeff Bone, Kate van Gend, Sue Dawes, Becky Couzens, Julie Wood, Roger Wallsgrove, Hilary Davies, Chris Vanstone

Crew

Director Pete Woodward
Producer Sally Hartley
Stage Manager Robin Hall
Lighting Design Phil Hanley
Lighting Operation Jacquie Penrose
Sound Design Phil Hanley
Sound Operation Ingrid Corrigan
Costumes Sue Dawes, Di Coates, Jenny Jones, Di Wallsgrove, Sharman Callam, Robin Hall, Thomas Hall, James Hall, Caroline Footman
Set Design David Penrose
Set Construction David Penrose, Thomas Hall
Programme Editor Derek Callam
Front of House Sally Hartley

Director's Notes

The history and origins of Pantomime reach far back into Europe, and especially Italy, but the Christmas Panto, familiar to most of today's parents and children, has developed into a particularly British form.

Two years ago the Bench Theatre voted to devise a panto, specially written by Mark Wakeman, which was both completely original, whilst holding fast to this British tradition. The result, as many of you may remember, was "Cinderella: A Christmas Adventure!", which proved to be a huge success.

So, this year, with a sparkling new script from Mark Wakeman, and including many of the same team involved, we bring you "Aladdin".

Believe me, being the director of this show is the easiest job in the world, surrounded as I am by a fabulous cast of actors, costumiers, designers, constructors and crew. I thank them all and hope you enjoy the show as much as we have presenting it to you!

Pete Woodward

Author's Notes

During Cinderella, backstage, peering in through the side doors, waiting for our entrance, my fellow performer (and current Twanky), Dan Finch and I were watching the Grand Ball sequence. As we listened to the audience roar with laughter as our clock magnificently (and almost intentionally) failed to strike midnight on cue, Dan whispered to me 'So what panto are we going to do next time then?' and without thinking I said 'Aladdin'. We were riding high on the audience reaction to the show and the buzz of taking part in such a well-received and fun production. But as the exhaustion settled in almost immediately after the applause of the last show died away I thought 'there's no way I want to go through this again.' So the decision was made... I was never going to write another panto ... someone else could do the next Christmas show.

This conviction lasted a few months as well, until other members of the company started coming up to me and asking me what panto was I going to pitch for the next Christmas show. Then the final killer was Peter Woodward and the lovely Robin Hall who had directed and stage managed the last one saying to me they would direct and stage manage again if I would produce them another script. That was the decider - if Pete Woodward asks you to do something, you just do it, he's a hard man to refuse, especially if he catches you when your guard is down and you're in your cups at a cast party.

So Christmas 2011 I sat down with a blank screen and filled it with words. Well, I tried. But I had no inspiration; nothing seemed to work. Despite being one of the most famous stories on the planet I just couldn't get to grips with it. I attempted four different drafts with radically different concepts and even knocked out a few pages of 'Sleeping Beauty' to see if I just needed to change pantos. But none of it worked, it remained resolutely rubbish and unfunny on the page and so I abandoned it and told everyone, via a number of ranting Facebook statuses, that I wasn't going to do it.

I had given myself to the end of my Christmas holiday to produce a working draft, if I couldn't by then that was it, it was over. And four days before the end of my holiday I had an idea and started typing again. Four days later about 10.00pm on the night before I was due to go back to work I typed the words "THE END".

So here it is, my version of Aladdin which is very much like my version of Cinderella, in that it was my intention to give you all the story points that you expect, Aladdin, the Princess, the evil Wizard, the Genie and his lamp and also hopefully a few things that you didn't! I've seen previous versions of Aladdin that are Chinese and some that are Arabic so I've nicked from both of them and stuck them together! The idea of the story being a story within a story told by hopeless narrators seemed to work well for Cinderella and so the Brothers Grimmer are back! There are also a number of other tips of the hat to Cinderella which makes this very much a shared universe story with our version, making this almost a spin off sequel! I've made it so you don't need to have seen our Cinderella to understand the references but if you have seen it (and can remember it!) then you might recognise a familiar face or two ... and undoubtedly a few of the jokes too!

The version you are about to see is mostly the same as that last minute pounding of the keys, except the spelling has been corrected (Thank you Robin!) some of the cheapest gags have been cut out (Damn you Robin!) and Peter, Robin and a glittering cast and crew have been let loose on it to add their own wonderful interpretations and gags to mould it into the show that you will see today.

It's been a lot of hard work but also a lot of fun and I am always humbled to see such talented people giving their all to bring to life the crazy plottings of my brain.

I hope you all enjoy the show and that it begins the start of a magical Christmas for you all.

And now I can say with conviction ... NEVER AGAIN!

Mark Wakeman

Designer's Notes

As with all pantomimes, there are some things that have just got to be in 'Aladdin' or you simply are not doing it right. Most of it is set in Old Peking - none of this Beijing correctness here. There is a laundry and a palace. And then you have to go to Arabia. So two kinds of vividly colourful exotica there! This is turning into a designer's dream.

There has to be a ship and a magical cave and transformations and a lamp and more transformations and then back to Old Peking where there is a dragon ... Hang on! I don't remember the dragon. But this is a Mark Wakeman script so there has to be a bit more than you expected.

I love sets that give you a bit more than you expected. Just when you think you have worked out everything that can happen visually, a really satisfying set has another trick in its box.

So these were the parameters I had to start with. Imperial China and the Arab desert alone allowed me to draw on two rich and ancient worlds of imagery. And I wanted to bring a strand to the production which is not foremost in Mark's comic fantasy a mythical fantasy, embodied in the tales of the 'One Thousand and One Nights' where the story of Aladdin started. Pagodas and minarets; sugarloaf mountains and camel trains - in they went.

And, thank you, Mark, for the dragon. For those of you who like a hunt while you watch, there are four painted ones to find.

David Penrose

Reviews

The Southern Daily EchoAnne Waggott

"The ... story within a story told by hapless narrators seemed to work well ... so the Brothers Grimmer are back!" Yes, they were indeed back - and to great effect!

Right from the start this was a bright, lively, high octane traditional pantomime and yet it was also refreshingly presented at a slick, energetic pace that had the audience, even the smallest toddlers, enthralled throughout.

Excellent direction ensured that the actors approached this with an almost Shakespearean reverence that yielded terrific results. Amongst a universally first-rate cast, it's difficult to pick out individuals, but Alice Corrigan was outstanding as villain Nostrodomindos, both Helen Young and Beth Evans were superb principal boys, Dan Finch an excellent Dame and narrating duo, Mark Wakeman and Alan Welton, held it all together brilliantly.

Enhanced by bold, colourful scenery, seamless scene changes, and creative lights and sound, this originally-scripted production was a practically perfect pantomime! Recommended.

The Southern Daily Echo, 10th December 2012

remotegoatJill Lawrie

"Fab-u-lous oh yes it is!"

What a wonderful start to the Christmas period. Thankfully Mark Wakeman's throw away line of 'never again' at the end of the run of his winning version of "Cinderella" has not been taken seriously and he was persuaded to dish up another pantomime for 2012! Using the popular British tried and tested pantomime format, Wakeman has taken the familiar tale of Aladdin and sticking to his successful formula of - a story within a story and that relies on a couple of narrators to unravel the storyline. The Brothers Grimmer return along with a robust dame Widow Twanky, a beautiful princess, dastardly villain and the requisite principal boy Aladdin.

Aladdin is looking for more out of life, Princess Puddle a way of escaping an arranged marriage and Nostrodominos is hoping to rule the world. The trio are thrown together as they embark on an amazing adventure, sailing to Arabia, finding the Genie of the lamp, a magic carpet and finally love and happy ever afters.

The set design/painting by David Penrose is outstanding, seamlessly transposing from laundry wash room to Imperial Palace, the high seas and an Arabic cave. The abundant Oriental artwork, innovative colourful lines of laundry and intricate calligraphy are truly inspiring. Some wonderful costumes/props too, (notably the flowing robes of the hairy Nostrodominos, Widow Twanky's impressive wardrobe, a horse head and camel costume) along with the creative lighting effects all boosting the wonder of this magical tale.

Peter Woodward, a stalwart member of this theatre group, directed a large strong cast with so many notable performances. In particular Alice Corrigan (Nostrodominos) with her brilliant sinister facial expressions, the incompetent sailor Sindy played with great aplomb by Jo Gardner. Paul Millington (Malcolm) gives a comical rendition of the Genie, well supported by Claire Lyne as Gina the Genie (of the ring). Mark Wakeman took on the role of Billio (co narrator), and as always a larger than life colourful performer, guaranteed to give 100% to his character and in this case adding ventriloquism to his talents! Aladdin and Princess Puddle (Wishee Washee) were ably played by Helen Young and Beth Evans respectively, with mention too for a very brave cameo role by Robin Hall (stage manager) and her scantily clad improvised song and dance routine, an amusing extra to the storyline. Dan Finch positively dazzled as the pantomime dame Widow Twanky.

This was a highly entertaining first class effort, well written and excellently executed, and quite clearly thoroughly enjoyed by all involved ~ a great team effort.

remotegoat, 13th December 2012

Production Photographs