Oh no, it isn’t? Oh yes, it is! Hackney Empire’s panto celebrates 20th anniversary with Aladdin

Cast of Hackney Empire’s Cinderella. Pic: Hackney Empire

In the land of Ha-Ka-Nay outside of Old Peking, a young street urchin is trying to find love and fortune.  A lamp, a genie and tap dancing pandas, are all included to help lost boy’s wishes come true.

But can Aladdin win the heart of the princess, or will an evil magician and his madcapped policemen rule all? Yes, however improble the plot, pantomine still remains popular treat for families at the festive season.

This year  Hackney Empire’s  writer and producer Susie McKenna and composer Steve Edis , celebrate their 20th pantomine with a production of Aladdin. Previews are already underway and the first night is on December 5. The show runs until January 6.

Kat B as Genie in Aladdin Pic: Hackney Empire

Hackney Empire has been known to focus on passion and performance rather than celebrity and profit but has consistently won praise for the quality of its pantomines. McKenna has said in the past: “Hackney deserves a pantomime that is at West End level.”

Tony Whittle backstage in Cinderella 1999 Pic: Hackney

McKenna said: “Aladdin has always been one of my favourite pantomimes. It is full of magic, and whilst the traditional story will be there, this year will see Aladdin make an epic journey to the frozen wastelands to save his family and the world”.

McKenna, who staged her first show at Hackney in 1994 was artistic director for seven years before leaving in 2017. The pair last staged Aladdin in 2009.

Olivier Award winner Clive Rowe is playing Widow Twankey, the essential Dame for every pantomime.

(From left) Clive Rowe, Tameka Empson, Julie Yammanee and Gemma Sutton in 20th Anniversary of Aladdin Pic: Hackney Empire

Rowe is joined by comedian and EastEnders actor, Tameka Empson, who will be playing the role of the evil Empress. Theatre veterans Gemma Sutton and Julie Yammanee will be starring as Aladdin and Princess Ling Mai. The role of the Genie of the Lamp will be played by Kat B.

Hackney Empire has produced countless pantomime classics over the past two decades, such as Cinderella, Dick Whittington, Jack in the Beanstalk and Mother Goose.

Kat B and Tameka Empson in Mother Goose in 2008 Pic: Hackney Empire

Andrew Coombs, 52, the director of Hackney Children’s Theatre, told Eastlondonlines: “Pantomime in England is often the first live theatre young children get the opportunity to see…A good panto is subversive and incorporates the best of live theatre, clowning, song, dance, gender play, nonverbal storytelling. As well as fantastical scenarios which talk of limitless possibilities, it also takes a pop at contemporary life”.

Coombs concluded: “We are spoiled in Hackney, as we have the best panto on our doorstep”.

The production is holding specific shows for audience members with disabilities. Certain shows will feature British Sign Language interpreters and dementia-friendly performances. A “relaxed” show will be held on December, 8 with quieter music and no flashing lights.

You can book tickets here



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