They’re here – oh yes they are! Hackney Empire today releases production images for Aladdin, its landmark 20th anniversary Christmas pantomime from writer and director Susie McKenna and composer Steven Edis. The celebratory production runs at Hackney Empire until 6 January 2019, with opening night for press taking place this evening.

Aladdin stars Olivier Award-winning Grande Dame of pantomime Clive Rowe making his Hackney comeback in the role of Widow Twankey to mark his 12th panto with the venue. Olivier Award nominated actress, television star and comedian Tameka Empson (EastEnders) also returns to play The Empress in her sixth Empire panto and following her last stage appearance 9 years ago. They are joined by Gemma Sutton (Gypsy, The Rink) in the title role, Julie Yammanee (Spamilton, Here Lies Love) as Princess Ling Mai and Empire regular Kat B as Genie of the Lamp.

The full cast includes Empire stalwarts Tony Timberlake as Abanazar and Tony Whittle as Sergeant Dumplin’, Natasha Lewis as Genie of the Ring, Alim Jayda as Dishi, Michael Lin as Constable Ackee and Ollie Corbett, Jonathan Norman, Saori Oda, Jacqui Sanchez, Monica Swayne and Dale White in the ensemble. The production also features Sharon D Clarke as the voice of Gaia, The Goddess of Light.

Aladdin is once again written and directed by Susie McKenna with original music by Steven Edis, bringing a glittering show packed with magical fun, song, dance, slapstick comedy and audience participation for all the family. Susie McKenna and Steven Edis mark two decades at the helm of the now legendary Hackney Empire panto which has grown to become an annual highlight and a champion for culture and community in the East End.

In the Far East End, on the island kingdom of Ha Ka Ney, young Aladdin dreams of finding love and making his fortune. When he discovers an enchanted lamp and meets a mysterious genie, it looks like all his wishes are about to come true – with the help of tap-dancing pandas and his larger-than-life mum, can he win the hand of his Princess or will an evil magician, some madcapped policemen and a very large pile of laundry stand in his way?

Aladdin has Production Design by Lotte Collett, Musical Direction by Mark Dickman, Choreography by Richard Roe, Lighting Design by David Howe, Sound Design by Daniel Higgott, Assistant Direction by Matt Dempsey and Creature Design by Scott Brooker.

A Hackney Empire Pantomime

Hackney Empire, 291 Mare Street, E8 1EJ

First performance: Saturday 24 November
Opening Night: Wednesday 5 December
Final performance: Sunday 6 January

Signed Performances
Saturday 8 December at 2.30pm & 7pm
Thursday 13 December at 1.30pm & 7pm

Dementia Friendly Performance
Saturday 8 December at 2.30pm

Relaxed Performance
Saturday 8 December at 2.30pm (signed performance)
020 8985 2424
Please Note: Children under 14 years need to be accompanied at all times by a paying adult
Tickets from £10 - £42, concessions available
Groups of 10+ discount available at certain of performances

Twitter: @hackneyempire
Facebook: /HackneyEmpire
Instagram: /HackneyEmpire


Clive Rowe (Widow Twankey) has played the Dame in successive pantomime productions at the Empire and was recognised with an MBE in the 2017 New Year’s Honours list. Rowe’s extensive theatre credits include his Olivier Award-winning performance in Guys and Dolls (National Theatre), The Light Princess, Carousel (for which he was nominated for an Olivier Award), Fuente Ovejuna, Caroline, or Change, The Villains Opera, Money, Candide, Peter Pan (all National Theatre), Kiss Me, Kate (Chichester and Old Vic Theatre) and The Ladykillers (West End and UK Tour). He is well known for his role as ‘Duke’ in the BBC’s The Story of Tracey Beaker and has been seen in the Disney series The Evermoor Chronicles and recently played Cuisiner in the Beauty and the Beast film adaptation. Other television credits include So Awkward, The Kennedys, The Fun Police, All the Small Things, Doctor Who, Dalziel & Pascoe, and The Harry Hill Show. Rowe returns to Hackney Empire for his 12th pantomime appearance.

Tameka Empson (Empress) made her Hackney Empire panto debut in Aladdin in 2004 as the Genie of the Ring, returning in Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Dick Whittington, Mother Goose and lastly as the Empress of China in Aladdin in 2009 in which she also starred with Clive Rowe. Empson rose to fame as co-creator and one of three pranksters in the BBC hidden-camera comedy sketch show 3 Non Blondes and is well known for playing the role of Kim Fox-Hubbard in EastEnders for which she has received numerous awards including four-times winner of Inside Soap’s Funniest Female Performance. Other screen credits include Jonathan Harvey’s BBC 2 sitcom Beautiful People and film Beautiful Thing, ITV thriller Whitechapel, the Oscar nominated film Notes on a Scandal, and she has competed in the 2016 series of Strictly Come Dancing. On stage, Empson’s credits include Mrs Aphrodite in the original cast of The Big Life (Stratford East and West End) for which she received the Olivier Award nomination for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in A Musical, Our House (West End), Top Girls (West End and UK Tour) and her one-woman show Marcia Brown – The Unsung Diva! (Edinburgh Festival). She also co-wrote and co-starred in the GeeStore and Hackney Empire production The Kat and Tameka Show with DJ and Empire regular Kat B, and worked with emerging talent and young people as part of Hackney Empire’s Creative Futures programme.

Gemma Sutton (Aladdin) last appeared at Hackney Empire playing The Girl in Susie McKenna’s Blues in the Night in 2014, and will return to make her Hackney panto debut this Christmas. Her television roles include Beryl Marsden in ITV’s Cilla, Tasha Wright in BBC series Doctors and as a soloist for BBC 2’s West Side Stories. She is also set to appear in the National Theatre production of Follies next year. Her previous stage credits include June in Gypsy (West End and Chichester Festival Theatre), The Rink (Southwark Playhouse), The Go Between (Apollo), Carousel (Arcola), Legally Blonde (West End), Sweet Charity (Watermill Theatre), A Christmas Carol the Musical (LMTO), Strictly Ballroom (West Yorkshire Playhouse/Toronto), Chicago (Leicester Curve), Hairspray (UK Tour), Oklahoma! (UK tour), Gone with the Wind, Imagine This (New London Theatre) and summer seasons at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

Julie Yammanee (Princess Ling Mai) most recently appeared in Spamilton (Menier Chocolate Factory). Her stage credits also include Lazarus (King’s Cross Theatre), Priscilla Queen of The Desert (international tour), Here Lies Love (National Theatre), Avenue Q (UK tour), The World Goes Round (Yellow Glass Theatre) and Rapunzel (Theatre Royal Stratford East).

Kat B (Genie of the Lamp) is a familiar face to Hackney Empire audiences following numerous appearances including as the Ugly Sister in last year’s Cinderella and previously Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk, Mother Goose, Puss in Boots, Dick Whittington, Cinderella, The Wiz and A Christmas Carol. Kat is best known for MTV Base where he has presented shows around the world. His film and television credits include Waterland and Street Wise (BBC) and the Richard Blackwood Show (Channel 4). Kat is also the resident host of the Real Deal Comedy Jam and a regular on the Jongleurs Circuit.

Tony Whittle (Sergeant Dumplin’) is a seasoned Empire panto performer most recently seen as Ugly Sister in Cinderella in 2017. His many previous pantomimes include Sleeping Beauty, Dick Whittington, Jack and the Beanstalk, Aladdin and Mother Goose. Other extensive theatre credits include Les Misérables (Palace Theatre), Neville’s Island (Bolton Octagon), Fur Coat and No Knickers (Nottingham Playhouse), A View From the Bridge (Greenwich Theatre), and three seasons at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

Tony Timberlake (Abanaza) makes a return to Hackney Empire after his performance in Mother Goose in 2014. His wide range of credits includes Alice in Wonderland (Rose Theatre, Kingston), Season’s Greetings (Contextual Theatre), Looking for John (Assembly Hall, Edinburgh and Birmingham Rep), and Chicago (Cambridge Theatre). Television credits include EastEnders and Holby City.

Natasha Lewis (Genie of the Ring) recently starred in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s widely acclaimed production of Miss Littlewood, Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch) and Oranges and Elephants (Hoxton Hall). Other stage credits include The Threepenny Opera (Bolton Octagon) and The BFG (Birmingham REP). Film includes Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Alim Jayda (Dishi) most recently appeared in Salt (Bunker Theatre), and previousy in the UK tour of Tommy, Sinbad the Sailor (Theatre Royal Stratford East) A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare’s Globe). Film credits also include Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

Michael Lin (Constable Aki) has toured the UK with productions of Thriller Live! and Annie. His stage credits also include The Rink (Southwark Playhouse), Pinocchio (National Theatre), Forty Years On (Chichester Festival Theatre) and Grease (Leicester Curve).

Ollie Corbett (ensemble) made his professional debut in Peter Pan at Regent’s Park Theatre earlier this year. He has also performed as a dancer in concert with the Pet Shop Boys and in the ensemble of Friday Night is Music Night at the Royal Albert Hall.

Jonathan Norman (ensemble) has extensive stage credits including Oklahoma! (Gordon Craig Theatre), Elf the Musical (Theatre Royal Plymouth, Lowry Theatre), We Will Rock You (Denmark), Dora the Explorer Live! (international tour) and In The Night Garden (UK tour).

Saori Oda (ensemble) most recently appeared in The King and I (London Palladium) and Miss Saigon (UK and Ireland tour). Other credits include Carousel (ENO), The Lion King (Lyceum Theatre), and Wicked (Apollo).

Jacqui Sanchez (ensemble) is an established stage performer whose credits include The King and I (London Palladium), Shrek the Musical (New Wimbledon Theatre), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (The Broadway Theatre) and the international production of Hair (The English Theatre, Frankfurt).

Monica Swayne’s (ensemble) has appeared in Me & My Girl (Chichester Festival Theatre), Aladdin (West End), Der Rosenkavalier (Royal Opera House), Mary Poppins (UK tour) and across Australia in Follies In Concert, Fiddler On The Roof, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Last Man Standing and Wicked. She will also perform in Follies at the National Theatre next year.

Dale White (ensemble) returns to Hackney Empire after his performance in Cinderella in 2017. He has performed in a wide range of musical and dance theatre shows, including Strictly Ballroom (Piccadilly Theatre), Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent’s Park Open Air) and Bugsy Malone (Lyric Hammersmith).

Susie McKenna (Director/Writer) has written and directed 20 critically acclaimed pantomimes at Hackney Empire, plus three other Christmas shows. Early in her career she played principle boy at Nottingham Playhouse for eight years. Her most recent directing credits include King concert and Legacy (Hackney Empire), Oranges and Elephants (Hoxton Hall) and The Silver Sword, written by Susie and Steve Edis. Other credits include Blues in the Night, A Midsummer Night’s Madness (Hackney Empire, New York and Edinburgh Festival) and Once on this Island (Hackney Empire, Birmingham Rep, Nottingham Playhouse). She was nominated for the League of Professional Theatre Women’s Guild/Coigney International Theatre Award for developing international links. She has also worked as an actor for over 30 years and credits include Chicago, Cats, Ragtime and The Witches of Eastwick in the West End, TV shows such as Mr Bean and Casualty and films such as Cats, Jack and Sarah and Muppets Most Wanted.

Steven Edis (Musical Composer) has produced a magical mix of musical mash-ups, chart remixes and brand new music for the Hackney Empire pantomimes and this will be his 20th year of creating another original score. Steven has worked with the National Theatre, in the West End and on a variety of prestigious projects as composer, arranger and orchestrator. Recent credits include Agnes Colander (Ustinov Studio), By Jeeves (Old Laundry Theatre), A Christmas Carol (Noel Coward). Previous credits include Volpone (RSC), The Captain of Kopenick (National Theatre), She Loves Me and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Chichester Festival Theatre), A Chorus of Disapproval, Flare Path and Birdsong for the West End. Steven brings his vast experience to create a musical score that rivals a West End musical.