Monday, 16 January 2012

A gleam from Aladdin

Pantomime is one of the few English traditions that never made it to New Zealand. Wikipedia gets that charmingly and predictably wrong, presumably by assuming that all former British colonies are fossilised versions of Merrie olde England in the 1900s. Well ... that may be true to a point, I guess.

An absolute must for anyone with children at Christmas, panto exists only to introduce British sprogs to the peculiarly English obsessions with (a) men in drag and (b) bawling loudly in unison.

Audience:      Oh no, it doesn't!

The Raqasa: Oh yes, it does! And thank you for proving my point.

This vintage clip from ever-popular panto Aladdin stars comedian Charles Austin as Aladdin's mother, the Widow Twankey (pantomime dames are always played by either men, cf the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella, or animated blonde beehive Barbara Windsor). Austin was famous from the late 1890s until about the 1930s. British Pathe dates this 1926, which means that Austin's time in the sun didn't have much longer to run. It's a white guy playing an Asian woman - layer upon layer upon layer of socio-political readings to do here, like a big offensive Sara Lee cheesecake. BUT ... can you imagine what those stage sets and costumes looked like in colour?

Old-timey glamour aside, the dance routines in this are pretty slick.

Audience:      Oh no, they're not!
The Raqasa: Oh yes, they are!



  1. And of course, now Ann Widdecombe has been adopted as very-nearly-a-man-in-drag so she gets to be a pantomime dame. Which I think is appalling.

  2. Ah yes, "The Widders". It's almost like people have forgotten that she's a frothing right-wing bigot just because she was prepared to make a right spoon of herself on "Dancing with the Stars". Couldn't agree with you more, Foodycat!