Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

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Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves is the title of many plays, harlequinades and pantomimes over the years.

Also found as Ali Baba or The Forty Thieves in some sources.

The original text

Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves (علي بابا والأربعون لصا in Arabic) is one of the most famous stories from the One Thousand and One Nights, first introduced to the West by Antoine Galland in his 12 volume French translation between 1704 and 1717. (There is some suspiciuon in fact that Galland may have invented "Ali Baba" and "Alladin" himself.) Both the character and the story have been the source for numerous books, plays, pantomimes, films and other media, especially for children.

The theatre texts

A few famous international stage versions of the story include:

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, or, Harlequin and the Magic Donkey (a pantomime presented by Mr Saker at the Alexandra Theatre, Liverpool in 1868)

Ali Baba (a comic opera in four acts by Emilio Taddei, with music by G. Bottesini. English translation by C. L. Kenney, 1871);

40 Thieves (a pantomime performed at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh in 1886),

Ali-Baba (an opéra comique, with music by Charles Lecocq, 1887)

Chu Chin Chow (pantomime/musical 1916).

And of course there have been numerous films (see "Ali Baba" in Wikipedia[1] for example.).

South African stage productions

The story has been performed under a range of titles - below a chronological list.

1878: Performed by Disney Roebuck as Ali Baba or The Forty Thieves (also billed to under the more complicated title of Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves, or The Fairy Brilliantina and Harlequin and the Magic Donkey, according to Bosman, 1980, accredited to Taddei and Bottesini, but perhaps also indebted to Mr Saker), in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town on January. Apparently it was a local adaptation under management of Mr Vane, scenery by Mr Cooper. Performed as a pantomime in December, 1877 and January 1878 at the Theatre Royal, Cape Town to huge success. An interesting "local" facet is that the curtain opened on a scene in the kraal of the Xhosa king, Kreli, with the chief and his warriors taunting "Sir Castle Brere" and his British Flag. The popularity of the pantomime is attested for by the fact that there were additional performances consisting of extracts from the pantomime, while a certain W.L. Sammons did an acrostic[2] on the name Ali Baba on 12 January.

1944: Presented by the pupils of the Ashley Street Primary School in Cape Town's City Hall, 1944, decor by Sydney McKie. Carl van der Rheede as Ali Baba, Edna Young as his wife, Eric Titus as the Forest Enchanter.

Another pantomime version by De Wet Laubscher.**


Bosman, F.C.L., Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. 1980: pp. 353, 364-6.

Trek, 9(9):20, 1944.

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