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First Published 4 December 2009, Last Updated 10 December 2009

Familiar faces and suitably over the top costumes are back at the Hackney Empire this Christmas for its annual pantomime, this time heading to the Far East for a comical, silly and musical adventure with Aladdin.

Set in a Eastern suburb of Peking, the characters reside in the small Chinese town of Ha-Ka-Ney, where luckily they have local branches of ‘Primani’, Marks & Spencer and downtown Stoke Newington to keep them busy. Not busy enough though, it seems, is Aladdin, a mischievous and cheeky, thigh slapping youth, who finds himself in trouble with the local policemen, Ping and Pong, for lusting after the Princess Mai, who doesn’t seem to mind his fishnets and high heels get-up. Luckily he has his brother, who is always happy to get him out of a scrap, and his mother, the larger than life Widow Twanky, who with 54 ASBOs and an eye for the young men, can charm or seduce her way out of any tight spot.

But when an evil sorcerer arrives on the scene (cue boos and hissing from the audience) Aladdin finds himself in hot water and an even hotter desert on the hunt for a magical lamp. But with not one, but two flying genies, everything begins to get out of hand as the power greedy sorcerer is determined to do whatever it takes to become the most powerful man in the whole world.

The East End venue’s pantomime team have once again reunited to create this year’s festive treat, with Susie McKenna writing and directing in her usual magical and barmy style, with East London and cultural references thrown in at regular intervals, and a hefty selection of songs that are all bound to make it into this year’s NOW! 75, including Take That, Beyonce and a crowd-pleasing JLS number. Clive Rowe, as is tradition, steals the show as the elaborate dress-wearing Widow Twanky, not even breaking the character’s charm when her wig falls off mid-seduction and making light of the soon to be dark venue by flouting health and safety regulations knowing they can’t be closed down for it. Even regular Sharon D Clarke – currently starring in Hairspray – makes an appearance as the voice of a very special character.

With singing camels, dancing pandas, chucklebrother policemen, kung fu, acrobatics and silliness in abundance, Hackney Empire’s traditional pantomime is a seasonal, family treat. Just don’t sit in the front row unless you relish the thought of getting up close and personal with the voluptuous and lusty Widow Twanky…



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