|Playbill for the 1826 Drury Lane Aladdin|
|Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, c. 1826|
In its review of this production, The Times stated that such was the popularity of the Arabian Nights tales in the Georgian era that none in the audience could possibly have been unfamiliar with them: “they are read with avidity in early life,” the reviewer noted, “and the memory, even in age, delights to dwell on the marvellous powers of Aladdin’s ring and lamp, on the narrow escapes of the enterprising Sinbad, on the wonders of the city of enchanters, and the various strange adventures with magicians and genies to which the heroes and heroines are so frequently exposed.” The same week that Aladdin opened at Drury Lane, The Times reviewed yet another new print edition of the tales.
|Henry Bishop. composer of the 1826 |
Drury Lane Aladdin
|Catherine ("Kitty") Stephens, star of the |
1826 Drury Lane Aladdin
|The cover of Henry Bishop's score for the 1826 Drury Lane Aladdin|
|A modern Aladdin, New Wimbledon Theatre, 2013|
By the second half of the nineteenth century, theatrical adaptations of the Arabian Nights had veered once and for all into the land of pantomime and extravaganza, acquiring titles like Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp; or, Harlequin the Wicked Wizard and the Forty Thieves in 1884 and Aladdin; or, The Naughty Young Scamp Who Ran Off with the Lamp in 1897. These later versions continued to feed the public’s fascination with the East, sometimes combining several strands of interest, as in Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp or the Willow Pattern Plate and the Flying Crystal Palace” in 1884.
What did not change, and never will, I think, is the fact that the telling of tales and the desire to listen to the tales of others is a defining human characteristic, perhaps the defining human characteristic – one that is perfectly exemplified by The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments and its early stage adaptations.