Pantomime is back at long last, and this festive tradition is bigger than ever with songstress Alexandra Burke at the helm of Aladdin.
The former X-Factor star and chart-topping sensation stars as Scherezade in the show, which is at the Opera House theatre until the new year.
While she dazzles as the Spirit of the Ring, she slips back into her stage-stomping ways on a few occasions and treats us to live performances of her massive hits, including Hallelujah and Bad Boys.
The show follows the classic Aladdin tale of a loveable thief who falls in love with a princess, but with added top-tier panto laughs.
There are brilliant performances across the board, a highlight of which is Wishee Washee, played by Ben Nickless.
It’s his 17th year in panto, and it shows.
No one can entice the belly laughs quite like Nick, delivering jokes that tickle audience members of all ages – proven by my delighted theatre companions, aged 78 and 15.
There’s magic, too, with flying carpets and giant snakes, and lively dancing led by former Strictly Come Dancing star Alexandra.
This year’s panto felt more magical than ever after a year without it, and both audience and actors seem thrilled to be back in the theatres.
Aladdin runs at the Opera House theatre until January 2. You can get tickets here.
Featured image: Phil Tragen 2021
‘Please help’ – plea to save one of Manchester’s oldest theatres as beautiful building falls into disrepair
A fresh appeal and Crowdfunder has been launched to try and save one of Manchester’s oldest and most beautiful theatre buildings.
The Hulme Playhouse Theatre and the Nia Centre are at risk of closing down once again as both the list of repairs and the cost of living rise.
The venue, used now as a community hub and events space operated by NIAMOS, is in ‘desperate need of repair’ and they need to raise £50,000 for the urgent work.
Without it, it’s feared that the ‘cold and leaking’ building could be lost forever and ‘another cultural institution could be turned into flats’.
At present, the historic Grade II-listed building doesn’t have a heating system, and winter has brought new pressures.
NIAMOS, a group of local residents and community volunteers, say they want to ‘honour the important legacy of this renowned venue’.
The beautiful building in Hulme was first opened in 1902 and is one of only two remaining W. H. Broadhead theatres.
At one time, Broadhead owned an empire of theatres, and designed the space to resemble a factory from the outside, hoping to help working class audiences in Manchester feel at home.
In 1956, the BBC took over and turned it into BBC Soundstage North, where The Beatles’ first-ever live radio performance was broadcast from.
Then the legendary Nina Simone opened it theas The Nia Centre in 1991, becoming the first African and Caribbean-led theatre in Europe.
The cultural significance of this building really can’t be overstated, and the NIAMOS team are desperate to save it.
They said in their Crowdfunder: “Our mission is to preserve the heritage of the Nia Centre and Playhouse Theatre, by keeping the building and the Arts it facilitates accessible to all communities, all ages and capabilities.”
NIAMOS’ message continued: “We need help to be able to keep all the incredible projects that happen in the building going and make sure the space stays open as a hub for the Hulme community and beyond! We need to honour the important legacy of this renowned venue, still independent in the heart of Manchester, and not let another cultural institution be turned into flats.
“We want to make sure the building stays open as much as possible over winter and improve the equipment that local and young artists have access to through us, including music production, sound and lighting engineering, arts workshops, film and media production and acting classes.
“The building is in desperate need of repair and a heating system which we currently do not have at all! Alongside all of this, the running costs of the building and the rising cost of living mean we are under pressure this winter.
“We rely on volunteer support to run and host events for our community and our voluntary members have worked extremely hard to keep the building afloat, but our members cannot give as much of their time as we need and with the challenge of a cold and leaking building we are in need of help to save this space from closing down!!
“When the current directorship took over the running of the building they also took on significant debts, this has meant we have been two steps forward and one step back. Despite all the hard work of the people who have been running the space voluntarily we need help over the quieter winter months.
“We need to stay open long enough to apply for further funding bids, including long term support from the Heritage Lottery fund, as we are a grade II listed building. We have an amazing programme of events and projects we want to put on this year that will build on sustaining us financially and provide opportunities for community artists and creatives.
“Keeping this building open and functional is of great importance for Hulme and the surrounding areas communities; we need your help! Developing heating solutions and doing necessary repairs in the building will enable us to stay open during the colder months and help us with our aim of making the building more conscious and sustainable.