While not strictly Stokey the Hackney Empire is a local(ish) institution and their Christmas pantomimes are especially worth a visit.
This year’s adventure is Aladdin and his magic lamp, transported from its usual Arabian setting to the Peking suburb of Ha-Ka-Ney. Clive Rowe (Duke from the Tracey Beaker series) stars as the Widow Twankey and is joined by an all-singing, all-dancing cast including flying genies, tap dancing pandas and a singing camel.
The show retains classic panto moments such as “He’s behind you” but merges it with well with laugh-out-loud local references and well known songs from the likes of Beyonce and the Jackson 5. Not just for kids, Aladdin is a feel-good festive treat that manages to entertain the adults as well.
After the panto run, the Empire will be closing for a ‘period of reflection’. It has been operating at a substantial loss since its refurbishment in 2004 and will be reviewing its programming and business models to ensure the theatre continues to entertain local residents well into the future.
It is not the first time that the theatre has been threatened with closure. Since it opened in 1901, the Hackney Empire has gone through various incarnations as fashions and public taste changed. It began life as a music hall, hosting the likes of Charlie Chaplin and WC Fields, had a stint as a bingo hall and was the home of alternative comedy in the 1980s.
The Empire will return to full operation and programming within the new model with the pantomime ready for Christmas 2010.
The panto runs from 28 November 2009 – 9 January 2010
Tickets: £22.50 – £9.50, concessions and group rates available