Pantomime might be an opportunity for big kids to regress to their childhood, but in this disco-inspired modern classic, Johnny McKnight takes his audience back decades to a world of magical adventure.

McKnight completely recasts the classic story in his pantospheric Stirling Stella – which might be an alternative universe but it has all the local jibes you’d expect for the locale. Nowhere – Alloa, Cowie, Bridge of Allan – is safe from McKnight’s sharp wit.

We meet Aladdin (Betty Valencia), who happens to be a woman in this take, her sister Wiz-She-Was-She McTwank (Helen McAlpine) and their outrageous maw Marge O’Reen (Johnny McKnight).

Valencia’s assured and understated heroine doesn’t need to thigh-slap her way through the panto – that’s reserved for the hilarious Prince Jasper (Dylan Wood). McAlpine swaps her usual baddie for the brilliant Wiz-She. This tiny torpedo brings buckets of humour and pathos in equal measure.

As for Marge O’Reen, McKnight is undoubtedly the most outrageous Dame in Scotland – just as at home pacing the stage in her kaftan as she is bumping and grinding across her adoring audience.

This family might be sidesplittingly funny, but they are down on their luck as the laundry slumps. It’s down to Aladdin to save the day, following a prophecy that will see her laden with riches.

Of course, there’s a baddie – the Demon King (Robert Jack) – who sets out to scupper this happy ending. Swapping his typical daft boy for the baddie is an inspired move for Jack, who revels in the boos – even though he’s far too hilarious to seriously boo!

Amy Conachan gets the best of both worlds – playing both good and bad. Her Jeannie (yep, you guessed it!) has all the gas of a shaken can of Irn Bru and an infectious warmth that really suits the role.

Crucially, the Macrobert puts its youth chorus front and centre in this production. Kids are mic’d up and play crucial parts in the plot, as well as in dazzling dance routines and musical numbers.

This panto might benefit from a gentle cut here and there to keep it perfectly tight, but it’s a laugh-a-minute explosion of joy and fun that protects panto’s best-loved traditions and chucks the outdated stuff out.

So don your flares, cake on the glitter and get ready for a disco dream of a pantomime from one of Scotland’s modern panto greats.

Aladdin at Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling until Sunday 31st December 2023 – https://www.macrobertartscentre.org/shows/487627ALGSCKKBPKJSQSTSLKTNKRVVDLN

Photo Credit: Peter Dibdin