Troupe provides the perfect tonic to banish those winter blues

CHRISTMAS may be fast becoming a distant memory for many of us now, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of panto season . . . oh not it isn’t!

And once again, Mansfield Hospital’s Theatre Troupe got a packed Palace Theatre into the festive spirit, somewhat belatedly, with its hilarious take on Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

The night got off to a lively start with the cast performing an uplifting rendition of the Black Eyed Peas hit ‘I’ve Got a Feeling’ - a marker which set the tone for the rest of the performance.

Packed with the usual rib-tickling comedy, cheesy one-liners, the panto provided the perfect tonic to banish those winter blues by serving up a show full of Eastern Promise.

A cast made up of volunteers and keen enthusiasts, the panto told the tale of Baghdad barber Ali Baba and his rich brother Kasim - who doubled up as the traditional panto villain El Scorpio, who led the 40 thieves.

The original story of Ali Baba may be a well known tale, but as a panto it’s not as familiar with the masses like traditional favourites Cinderella, Aladdin or Jack in the Beanstalk.

But the easy-to-follow storyline of the good guys led by Ali trying to thwart the brazen thieves proved a hit with young and old.

The set was stunning and the lavish costumes would not look out of place in any production.

There were standout performances from several of the cast and, although, it’s always unfair to single out individuals, special mention must go to Scott McKenzie as the hilariously named Fatima Kebab and Joe Ladlow as Kasim Baba.

McKenzie, who was also director, was superb and had more colourful, zany costumes than eccentric pop star Lady Gaga!

I personally lost count how many outfits he wore throughout the production, but the highlight was his ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ - which loosely amounted to him stripping off layer after layer of clothing until there was very little left to the imagination.

As for Ladlow, he played the villain to perfection with a performance brimming with confidence and authority and unsurprisingly, every time he entered the stage, the theatre echoed to the sound of boos. -

Other performances of note came from the ever-reliable Trevor Morley, who is also the Troupe’s treasurer, as Ali Baba and on-stage sweethearts Leanne Evans (Pollyanna Jones) and Nick Hedley as Rhum Baba.

As ever, the troupe pulled off a show to be proud of and one cannot wait for next year’s offering.

l The Mansfield Hospital’s Theatre Troupe has been performing pantos since 1980, with all proceeds going to local charities. So far, the Troupe has raised more than £100,000 for good causes - a milestone reached following last year’s production of the Beauty and the Beast.

- Ashley Booker