Bollywood comes to Alcalali

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ALI BABA and the Forty Thieves staged at the Careline Theatre in Alcalali last Wednesday January 12, isn’t one of your normal run-of-the-mill frothy pantomimes. From the moment Ali Baba stole treasure from a cave owned by Bin Laden lookalike Al Raschid and his forty thieves, it was obvious we were in for a bumpy ride.

So it was no great surprise when little innocent slave girl Marsaina, in an attempt to save the Baba household from reprisals, plunges a dagger into the heart of the villainous robber leader while raising his hopes during a sexy belly dance.

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Then, as an encore, organises a fry-up for the remainder of the gang by boiling them alive in healthy olive oil. As a thank you, the sexy serial killer is awarded the hand of rich merchant Ali Baba’s son in marriage.

Unfortunately for him, it was still attached to the rest of his body – but maybe not for long. This unholy union gave the company a good excuse to celebrate the wedding as a grand finale in Bollywood style with the Hindu hit, Jai Ho!

Director Candida Wright breathed life into this ancient dark tale, turning murder and mayhem into a double act, transporting the audience through the proscenium arch, right into the heart of the action.

They cheered the goodies, booed the baddies and sympathised with the poor hero and heroine, faithfully portrayed by Ben Davis and Grace Sanchez.

Loud groans greeted the traditional corny gags, professionally delivered by the excellent comedy double act of Hanki Panki and Jiggeri Pokeri, alias Brenda Smethhurst and Brenda Taylor and they fell in love with cuddly Tinbad the Tailor, sympathetically played by Robin Baxter – as did Phil Panter within the slim frame of panto dame Cascara, adding more than just a hint of Julian Clarey to the role.

Andy Crabb played rags to riches central character Ali Baba with a nice touch of underplay, while Neil Carter brought out the best of the hisses and boos with his stylish over-the-top performance as evil robber leader Al Raschid. Cuddly, loveable and cheeky camel Mustapha was a star in its own right, thanks to the talents of Elaine Farrow and Olivia Partington – whichever way round they ended up.

Fabulous costumes and exciting dance routines, creatively choreographed by Susanna Mace, together with a great a selection of music directed by the master himself Roger Dean, helped to elevate the production to a level loyal Careline audiences have come to expect. Congratulations to the chorus, dancers, juniors, backstage and front of house crew and all involved.

On a more personal note, this rather wordy and protracted tale was not really my cup of tea. I miss good old fashioned panto with lots of traditional slapstick, buckets of gunge down the trousers, huge busted manly dames wearing outrageous, gaudy outfits, thigh slapping principal boys and lots of magic visual effects.


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