Friday, June 02, 2006

"Establishment-bashing" Aladdin

This is by Baz Bamigboye on November 19th 1999 in the Daily Mail (not online), titled "Felicity's take on royalty".

There may be some comic confusion over the Queen's Christmas Day speech this year - thanks to the actress Felicity Kendal.

The award-winning Ms Kendal is playing the Empress of China in an Establishment-bashing adaptation of Aladdin for Radio 4's annual panto slot.

And she will loosely base her performance on the Queen, even apeing the royal speech patterns.

The Queen's seasonal message, as well as the panto featuring Ms Kendal, will both go out on Christmas Day morning.

'At the end of the show the empress will be selling her seasonal message to Sky TV,' Bruce Hyman, a co-writer and producer of Aladdin, told me.

'The empress's year somewhat shadows what the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have done. The emperor isn't allowed out because he keeps making tactless remarks.' Hyman, whose Above The Title production company is recording the show next weekend, added: 'At one point it's decided the empress needs to change her image and go to meet an ordinary family, so arrangements are made to visit widow Twankey.' Robbie Coltrane, one of the stars of new Bond movie The World Is Not Enough, plays Twankey, whose laundry in Peking boasts state-of-the-art spin-dryers known as 'Alastair Campbells' because they spin things out of all recognition.

'It's full of jokes at the expense of the BBC, Buckingham Palace and others in public life. It's very much off-message,' said Hyman.

'It's obvious Felicity is the Queen, but it's for a laugh and not intended to offend. We're bound to be asked to cut something, but we won't.' The show, written with Stuart Permutt and John Langdon, will be aimed at adults and children. A stellar cast has been assembled, with Jennifer Ehle as the princess, Clive Anderson as the Grand Vizier and Jeremy Hardy as the genie of the lamp.

You can buy the recording of Aladdin by sending a cheque to Above the Line.

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