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Oscar Winner in Panto at The Old Vic

24/11/2004, By

Reader Rating: 2.8 from 733 votes

Sir Ian McKellen satisfies his secret lust for panto at The Old Vic this Christmas as he takes to the stage as 'Widow Twankey' in director Sean Mathias's new production. The Old Vic Theatre Company celebrates Christmas and honours its vaudeville past with this classic family pantomime. Sir Ian plays the dame, ‘Widow Twankey’, in Australian writer Bille Brown’s updated version of Aladdin. This is the second production in The Old Vic Theatre Company’s inaugural season, which is sponsored by Morgan Stanley.

The panto will also star entertainment legends Maureen Lipman as ‘Dim Sum’ and Roger Allam as ‘Abbanazar’, with Sam Kelly as ‘The Emperor of China’, Ramon Tikaram as ‘Genie of the Lamp’, Joe McFadden as ‘Aladdin’, Cat Simmons as ‘Princess Badrulbadoor’, Owen Sharpe as ‘Hanky’ and Joanna Page as ‘Panky’. Further casting will be announced shortly.

Aladdin is one of the most famous tales from the celebrated collection of stories The Thousand and One Nights. The story of Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp was the source for the first stage version at Covent Garden in 1788. The famous clown Grimaldi played in it in 1813, and in 1861 ‘Widow Twankey’ made her first appearance as a character. Since then Aladdin has been a permanent feature of the English pantomime scene.

This new version by Bille Brown is freely adapted from the celebrated translation by Sir Richard Burton of The Thousand and One Nights. Combining all the popular pantomime ingredients, it is being staged during the Christmas season as a tribute to the more raucous, pre-Shakespearean era at The Old Vic.

“Ian is one of the great actors of all time,” says Kevin Spacey, The Old Vic’s Artistic Director. “We are delighted to welcome him back to a theatre which he last played in nearly forty years ago. He was ready for a fresh challenge and decided he’d like to do a pantomime, and one which is part of The Old Vic tradition - the theatre first staged Aladdin back in the nineteenth century.”

Ian McKellen explains the lasting appeal of this classic British genre: "Pantomime has everything theatrical - song, dance, verse, slapstick, soliloquy, audience participation, spectacle, cross-dressing and a good plot, strong on morality and romance. What more could you want for a family outing?”

Aladdin is directed by Sean Mathias and choreographed by Wayne McGregor, with set design by John Napier and costume design by Mark Bouman. The panto has original music by Gareth Valentine, orchestrations by Christopher Walker, sound by Fergus O’Hare and lighting by Mark Henderson. "Aladdin" is already proving to be the hottest ticket in town."

The pantomime runs from the 17th December to the 22nd January; for more information, visit The Old Vic Website.

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