McKellen adds weight to the Widow Twankey at Old Vic

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The Independent Culture

There were a few raised eyebrows among lovers of "serious theatre" when it was announced last month that Sir Ian McKellen would play the Widow Twankey in the pantomime production of Aladdin this Christmas.

There were a few raised eyebrows among lovers of "serious theatre" when it was announced last month that Sir Ian McKellen would play the Widow Twankey in the pantomime production of Aladdin this Christmas.

That it was at the Old Vic theatre, currently under the direction of Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey, went some way towards reassuring doubters that it was a genuine artistic endeavour. For though critical to the financial health of Britain's provincial theatres, the genre is bedevilled with the perception that panto represents the final resting place on the career ladder for washed-up comedians, soap stars and singers.

At the Old Vic, where Aladdin began last night, nothing could be further from the truth: McKellen appeared alongside Maureen Lipman as Dim Sum and the show also starred the Olivier award-winning actor Roger Allam, who played Hitler in Trevor Nunn's Albert Speer.

For the past six years the Royal Shakespeare Company has also put on family Christmas shows and the National Theatre staged Cinderella in 1983

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