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Metro, August 2003




Michael Hurst as Widow Twankey
(from Metro magazine, August 2003)



Directed by Michael Hurst

When he was five, Michael Hurst had an experience that led to dressing up in skirts and makeup. His mother took him to that perculiarly British institution, a pantomime production of Jack and the Beanstalk in Manchester. It stayed with him as he became one of our most celebrated actors and directors. For this Aladdin, Hurst has resurrected and updated a production he directed a decade ago, in the days of the Watershed Theatre. He's bringing his Widow Twankey out of the closet to play the cantankerous curmudgeon opposite rising star Anna Hewlett as the boy with the magic lamp.

With Willy de Witt as the genie and fellow comic luminaries Sugar and Spice and Alison Wall, Hurst has assembled a cast of top comics, to prove his belief that children deserve the "full-on theatricality, full-on acting, the real deal" their parents expect.

Hurst's production will give more than a nod to the commedia dell'arte theatre traditions from which modern pantomime grew: the cross-dressing, the stock characters, the knowing bawdiness and controlled anarchy that breaks the conventions of theatre. Aladdin augments this with a series of theatre tricks, magic carpet rides, underwater sequences and giant dragons, courtesy of quasi-Victorian theatre techniques.

Hurst has long harboured a dislike of children's theatre that offers half-assed hi-jinks. "You know," he says, "Four people, some tee shirts and a few boxes." Aladdin will certainly not be that.

Aladdin NZ Herald preview article on Aladdin  NZ Herald review of Aladdin

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