Christopher Gray is knocked out by the colourful new production of Aladdin at Oxford Playhouse

Oxford Playhouse maintains its reputation for the very best in pantomime with a hugely entertaining production of Aladdin.

Thousands will be having a merrier Christmas thanks to this excellent show, a colourful and musical delight.

After years in the capable hands of Peter Duncan, the pantomime has been handed over to writer and director Steve Marmion, who has come up with a new take on the classic tale.

And while some parts of the production are slightly puzzling, it has to be said, including the bizarre transformation of the hero’s brother Wishee Washee (Nathan Bryon) into a dog and the turning of the Spirit of the Ring (Rochelle Rose) into a villain, it is perhaps best not to ponder on what this is all about. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Talking of rides, the magic carpet ride in the second half with Aladdin (Adam Samuel-Bal) and his Princess Perfect Rose (Kiran Sonia Sawar) is alone worth the price of a ticket, better even that the “new lamps for old” routine from the villainous Abanazer (Paul Barnhill), which is always one of my favourites.

Expect nothing soppy in the central romance incidentally, for this Rose is very much a princess of our times. A tough-talking Glaswegian, she seems as likely to deck a lad as canoodle with him.

The up-to-date nature of the production, especially where music is concerned, is bound to appeal to young people, even if us oldies don’t entirely get the drift some of the time.

By the same token, there are elements in the show that will not be understood by anybody under 40, including a long comic riff on the song that includes the lines: “I beg your pardon; I never promised you a rose garden.”

Laughter is in generous quantity throughout the show, especially from the antics of the outrageously dressed Widow Twanky. Nigel Betts is one of the best dames I have seen. The routine in which a bicycle ends up parked between his legs is hilarious. Nigel writes in the programme that “he hopes you enjoy this year’s panto as much as he does”. He can be assured that we do. The quality of the singing is one of the most outstanding features of the show with excellent work put in under the careful control of musical director Scott Morgan.

The sets are among the most colourful seen on the Playhouse stage, a credit to their designer Liz Cooke and to the artist Korky Paul who has supplied splendid illustrations.