LONDON: We all know ‘Cinderella’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Aladdin’ well, but a new fairy tale has surfaced across Britain this month.
Touring five cities, including London, Manchester and Birmingham, Britain’s first-ever Muslim pantomime, “Cinder’aliyah”, was written by Anglo-Pakistani actor and comedian Abdullah Afzal for the international humanitarian charity Penny Appeal, all proceeds being donated to aid its winter campaign.
Thousands of people of different origins, ethnicities and religions have come to watch the pantomime and there is talk of extending it until January and adding more cities across the UK. Afzal, 32, told Arab News that his goal in writing the panto was to bring people together instead of pulling them apart.
Afzal, who is best known for his role on the BBC’s “Citizen Khan”, said there was some concern about the COVID-19 pandemic and the impending lockdown that could follow in January, but they were still worried that it might before the pantomime began its tour in December.
“I think with pantomimes you have to be ready for anything and everything and I think it’s the same behind the scenes too, so whatever happens we’ll take care of that when the time comes.”
“Cinder’aliyah” includes the basic characters of the original, with their names and traditions adapted to mimic South Asian culture. The story follows a young Pakistani girl who has had to endure the constant troubles and hardships thrown at her by her stepmother and evil stepsisters.
“I know Penny Appeal had done a Muslim pantomime before, and I thought I could put my own spin on things,” Afzal said.
Anglo-Kashmiri actress and writer Anisa Butt, who stars in the lead, said that while the story takes place about a South Asian Muslim family, it’s not just a pantomime for South Asians and all. everyone can watch it.
“Some of the jokes are pretty culture specific, but I think it’s actually pretty cool, that’s why we get the laughs that we get and it’s a lot of fun, and I think, especially in our community, we ‘I’ve never seen this before,’ said Butt, 28, who was a Disney child star in India and made her film debut in ‘Baat Bann Gayi’.
She said it had been a long time since she did pantomime – which is a family theater production involving music, topical jokes and slapstick comedy – and was thrilled to do a non-traditional performance that has adapted the original story.
Prince Javed, or Prince Charming known in “Cinderella,” played by Anglo-Pakistani singer, actor and music producer Hussnain Lahori, has been looking for love, but can’t find anyone he wants because ‘he is looking for someone who is true and pure, and he finally finds that in Cinder’aliyah.
“We try to introduce pantomimes to everyone because it’s part of British culture, but we also try to promote British culture through this pantomime to all Asians and non-Asians,” Lahori said.
While they expected the show to be in high demand, they didn’t expect it to be well received by audiences on social media and with PR comments, he said. he adds.
And that’s the end of the last show of the year. Written and Performed by The Incredible @Abdullah_Azfal
– pennyappeal.org (@pennyappeal) 23 December 2021
“I think not many people have seen a pantomime before and frankly I don’t think they expected it to be as good as it is,” Lahori said.
Amna Saqlain of London is no stranger to pantomimes and traveled over 90 minutes with nine of her family to see the show. She said it had been a great experience, especially for the children, and that she enjoyed the traditional Christmas carols which they adapted.
“I saw a lot of them when I was a kid, but they have always been linked to Christmas and not to our religion, so it was quite nice to have a lot of connotations to our religion and our culture”, a- she declared.