Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Musical Theatre

Laughs, lamps and love

10 February 2020

Patrick Gunasekera appreciates the warm welcome in this imaginative, disability-inclusive retelling of Aladdin.

Review: DAPAK, Aladdin the Pantomime ·
Phoenix Theatre, 8 February 2020 ·
Review by Patrick Gunasekera ·

In this imaginative retelling of the classic fairy tale Aladdin, director Kelly Mattravers and an accomplished disability-inclusive cast of sixteen, warmly invite audiences on a magical frolic through time and space.

Anything is possible in DAPAK (Dance Ability Performing Arts Kelete)’s dazzling community production of ridiculous family feuds, underdog trickery and genie-aided triumph. There are references to the wider Disney fairy tale canon, anachronistic modern technologies and Swedish furniture franchises. It is also perfectly normal for an antiquated emperor in a diamanté bejewelled kurta to conspire with a doctor in turquoise scrubs.

The lavish and lovingly assembled costume and set design (uncredited in the program), restyled the proscenium stage at Phoenix Theatre in Hamilton Hill into an enchanting array of bright silk and crushed velvet.

The biggest highlight for me was that the text and performances were delivered at a human pace, uninhibited and carried by the sheer joys of being onstage. In this play, comedy and dramatic irony are not to be viewed through a theoretical lens, but through the heart. The more sass and humour the merrier.

Special mentions go to Elsie Wade and Michael Grey for their thrilling performances as cunning siblings in crime Ameera and Aladdin, as well as to power couple Matthew McKie and Katie Hardwick for their winning comedic deliveries as the hilariously cynical and overbearing Emperor and Empress. Be warned, a precedent has been set and I’ll be expecting to see a lot more royal highnesses with manicures, pink wigs and wheelchairs from now on.

For me, this production speaks volumes to the utter fortitude of community theatre and the unconditional care therein. Here, the tiniest children strut their stuff in a place where confidence is applauded and nourished rather than nipped in the bud. And as the only queer-presenting and non-white person in the room on the day I attended, I felt more comfortable and welcomed than I usually do in more elite spaces.

The theatre has always been for the people; the academics and the rich came later. There aren’t many other places this Fringe where you will see genuine audience encouragement when actors are met with stage fright or elatedly remember the line they felt they just couldn’t get. I was also thrilled to see a rolling script projected on the side of the stage enabling an inclusive viewing experience – something a lot of prominent theatres could learn from.

DAPAK’s Aladdin the Pantomime is a visually stunning and comically captivating show, wholeheartedly delivered by a real cross-section of the community in a space where everyone can follow their dreams.

Pictured top: An enchanting array of bright silk and crushed velvet, the cast of Aladdin the Pantomime with director Kelly Mattravers centre.

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Zal Kanga-Parabia

Author —
Patrick Gunasekera

Patrick Gunasekera is a queercrip Sinhala artist working across performance, visual media, and writing. After reading a poorly written review on a show about disability, he got into arts writing to critically engage with touchy topics that affect him personally. He loved the monkey-bars as a kid because he wanted strong arms. Photo by Zal Kanga-Parabia.

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