“Oh, Yes it is!”December 11, 2017
The Magic ContinuesDecember 16, 2017
At Brick Lane Music Hall we have performed our famous “pantomime for grown-ups” every year since the early 90’s. This will be our fourth production of Aladdin.
Pictured, our first production, back in the early nineties in Brick Lane, with Lowri-Ann Richards as Aladdin and Vincent Hayes as Wishee Washee. Centre, Wishee Washee, aka Vincent Hayes in the early days in Silvertown and in more recent years, with Paul James as Widow Twankey.
One of the classic tales from the pantomime storybook, the tale of Aladdin originated in the stories of the Arabian Nights. It was first written down as a story in the ninth century as one of Scheherazade’s tales, told to save her life in the book of Sinbad. Its first performance as a pantomime was in 1788 as a Harlequinade at Covent Garden. The only named character was “Aladdin’s Mother” – giving her one of the oldest pedigrees in pantomime history.
Aladdin gradually evolved into “a gorgeous Melo-Dramatic Tale of Enchantment”. One performance in 1833 was almost entirely on horseback. The version we recognise today descends from the great Henry J Byron’s burlesque, “Aladdin, or the Wonderful Scamp” which was performed at the Strand Theatre in 1861. Byron coined the name “The Widow Twankay” and in 1889, Aladdin’s brother “Wishee Washee” was introduced, parodying the Chinese laundry businesses springing up in the East End of London and elsewhere.
In early productions the role of Aladdin was played by a woman, (pictured Fanny Joseph in Aladdin or the Wonderful Scamp in 1861) but in 1956 in the London Palladium production, the role was given to Norman Wisdom, leading to the role being played by a man or a woman. Thankfully, the tradition of the Grand Dame has never been lost and the Widow Twankay or Twankey (named after a fashionable tea blend) has been played by all the greats, including Dan Leno and John Inman (pictured).
In our 2018 production of Aladdin, Widow Twankey will be played by our own Great Dame Andrew Robley, Aladdin will be played by Lucy Reed and her brother, Wishee Washee – by Vincent Hayes!