Hackney Empire has announced the return of Olivier Award-nominated actress, television star and comedian Tameka Empson (EastEnders, The Big Life, 3 Non Blondes) for its landmark 20th-anniversary pantomime from writer and director Susie McKenna this Christmas. The new production Aladdin runs from 24 November 2018 to 6 January 2019, with a press night on 5 December.
Tameka Empson makes a much-anticipated return to the Hackney stage where she performed regularly between 2004 and 2009 before being cast as Kim Fox-Hubbard in EastEnders. Aladdin will mark her first stage appearance since joining the soap and will see her return to the role of the Empress alongside Hackney Empire’s Olivier Award-winning Grande Dame Clive Rowe.
Writer and director Susie McKenna will mark two decades at the helm of the now legendary show with composer Steven Edis. During their tenure, the Hackney panto has grown to become one of the city¹s most anticipated annual highlights and a champion for culture and community in the East End. Now established as the number one pantomime in London, Hackney Empire¹s annual offering continues to attract record numbers year on year, locally, nationally and internationally, with more people from Hackney attending than ever before.
Tameka Empson said:
“I am so excited to be performing in Hackney Empire’s Aladdin pantomime this Christmas. After a gap of nine years from doing panto from 2004 to 2009 at the Empire, I’m looking forward to rejoining the creative team, cast, and crew and having fun with the likes of Susie McKenna – funny lady both on and off stage, Steve Edis – who gets me to hit the high note every time, and Clive Rowe – need I say more, to name but a few! It is especially exciting as we will be celebrating 20 years of panto at the Empire. I’m not just saying it because I’m in it but there’s panto and then there’s Hackney Empire’s panto – you won’t want to miss it. See you there!”
Susie McKenna said: “I’m absolutely over the moon to have Tameka back with us for our 20th-anniversary pantomime of Aladdin and I’m sure audiences old and new will give her a true Hackney welcome. I think Tameka is a comic genius, she brings a very special kind of humour to every role and character and I’m relishing the opportunity to write for both her and our inimitable Dame Clive Rowe once again this year.”
All the way in Ha Ka Ney, on the outskirts of old Peking, 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 mad-capped policemen and a very large pile of laundry stand in his way
Tameka 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 Soap¹s Funniest Female Performance. Other screen credits include Jonathan Harvey¹s 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, Tameka¹s 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 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. During this period, 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 Empire¹s Creative Futures programme.
Clive Rowe 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 ŒDuke¹ in the BBC¹s 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 twelfth pantomime appearance.