Aladdin, Greenbrook Pantomime Society
Last year - 2016 - thundered by, shattering truths and shredding expectations. January, in contrast, tends to drip by.
So what better way to start the year than to escape into the silliness of panto - an art form that gives some sense and structure to the absurdity of current times.
In its production of Aladdin, Greenbrook Pantomime Society smeared the harsh reality of our world - division, austerity and a widening gap between rich and poor - with colour and glitter and cartwheeled it across the stage. After a year filled with shocks, this hilarious show blended familiar panto elements with fresh jokes to offer up a dose of catharsis.
In this tale, Aladdin and his friends are subjected to the greed of both the emperor and the eldest princess. Running a scrapyard, he is impoverished but rich in love and spirit. After finding a magical lamp and meeting a genie, he sets out to win the hand of the emperor's youngest daughter with the help of three wishes.
Everything about this knees-up was fun and comfortably curious: vibrant characters; charming principals; strong vocals; flashy costumes; a cast brimming with enthusiasm - exactly what is needed to drown out the drabness of the time and inject the madness of 2016 with some sort of sense. Here, flamboyancy and familiarity were married harmonically.
The true magic of panto - a dialogue with the audience - is its inclusiveness. Our principals - Martyn Green, Helen Ingham, Darren Brierley, Rebecca Munday, James Hargreaves and Edward Munday - excelled in their correspondence with the audience, possessing a wealth of charisma and excellent comic timing. They proved, right now, there is little more invigorating than celebrating togetherness.
Praise must also go to the production and directorial teams, plus the supporting cast and chorus: Kirsty Johnson; Abigail Hargreaves; Elaine Morris; Kirsty Lauder; Christine Chadwick; Sue Tighe; Debbie Hargreaves; Leah Walsh; Emily Greenall; Lydia Guy; Morgan Stephenson; Amelia Hirst; Evie Kelly; Daniel Day ; Britteney Wilson; Olivia Hirst; Grace Astin; Maisie Caine; Millie Cain; Ruby Cain; Evie Cullen; Katie Dewhurst; Lydia Dewhurst; Evie Greenall; Darcey Hirst; Tilly Johnson; Rianna MacMahon-Sethi; Marcie MacMahon-Sethi; Elsie Moggeridge; and Amy Wilkinson.
Pantos, like Greenbrook's, offer a safe means to watch traditions evolve. This production infused the familiar with new, exciting material to revitalise audiences. So forget fad diets and three-hour gym sessions: little is more reinvigorating than the belly-aching mirth of the panto this season.
Final performances take place tonight and tomorrow at 7-30pm. There will also be a matinee on Saturday at 2pm.
Tickets cost: Â£8 for adults; Â£5 for concessions; Â£22 for a family (two adults and two children). You can buy 10 tickets for the price of nine or 20 tickets for the price of 18. For block-bookings of 30 or more people, all tickets will be charged at the concessionary rate.
To book your seats please call 01282 719462.