Stamps of the Arabian Nights, Part 19

The Pantomime has been a part of the British Christmas and New Year’s tradition for some time now.  It is a performance that remains very British.  Many English traditions have been transplanted around the world.  The Christmas pantomime is one that has not really gotten off of the islands.  It certainly never became part of the Christmas traditions of Canada, USA, Australia or New Zealand.  I am not aware of any part of the Commonwealth outside of England, where the pantomime has taken root.  While performances of pantomime may be performed in other countries, it remains a British phenomenon.

Aladdin (1958/9) Streatham Hill Theatre

Aladdin (1958/9) Streatham Hill Theatre

The pantomime is a manner of presenting a story on stage.  Each show, despite the different subject matter, presents a stock set of characters: the Principle Boy (played by a girl), the Principal Boy’s lover/sweetheart (also played by a girl), the Pantomime Dame (played by a man), the Pantomime Villain, an animal character, a pair of labour characters.  The shows themselves are chosen from a set of about 20 stories.  The plot is basically thus: “The girl dressed as a boy who is the son of a man dressed as a woman, will win the other girl (surprisingly dressed as a girl), with the assistance of a person(s) dressed in an animal skin.”[2]

Ali Baba (1916) Hippodrome

Ali Baba (1916) Hippodrome

Three of the “standard” pantomime stories have there source in The Arabian Nights.  These are Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sinbad with Aladdin being one of the most popular.  There is a record of a performance of Aladdin in 1788.  It continues to be performed through to this day.  In 2004 there were 15 productions of Aladdin by professional companies in theatres around the UK.[3]

Sinbad (1892/3) Gaiety Theatre

Sinbad (1892/3) Gaiety Theatre

The Royal Mail has seen fit to recognise the pantomime with stamps a couple of times.  In 1985 a series of five stamps, commemorating the stock characters of the pantomime were issued.  Among them was the Genie from Aladdin.

Genie from Aladdin, 1985

Genie from Aladdin, 1985

In 2008 the pantomime was again recognised with Aladdin’s Genie again getting the nod.

Genie from Aladdin, 2008

Genie from Aladdin, 2008

While the Royal Mail does produce some very exciting and interesting stamps, I find these issues to be rather boring in their execution.

[1] Playbill’s from “Its Behind You, The Magic of Pantomime”  Its Behind You. http://www.its-behind-you.com/

[2] “The History of British Pantomime,” Limelight Scripts, 2005, http://limelightscripts.co.uk/history.html

[3] Sabbagh, Karl. “The Arabian Nights in British Pantomime” Scheherazade’s Children: Global Encounters with the Arabian Nights. New York: New York University Press, 2013, pp.266.

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This entry was posted in Aladdin, Ali Baba, Arabian Nights, Sindbad, Stamps and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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