Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

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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.

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.)

The theatre texts

Both the character and the story have been the source for numerous books, plays, pantomimes, films and other media, especially for children.

International versions

The many 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 versions

An Afrikaans version was written by De Wet Laubscher in 19**

Janice Honeyman's version

South African stage productions

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

1878: Performed as Ali Baba or The Forty Thieves from 1-25 January in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck. It was also billed 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:p. 505, accredited to Taddei and Bottesini, but perhaps also indebted to Mr Saker). Apparently it was a local adaptation under management of Mr Vane, scenery by Mr Cooper. 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 production was a huge success, as also 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.

1878: A "second edition" of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves opened in the Good Hope Gardens on 18 February, with the addition of Mr Harvey's Celebrated Grotesque and closing with the Grand Demon Ballet Zig Zag by the Kickapoos. Performed on and off till 2 March.

1908: Forty Thieves, a pantomime version, was performed by a Gaiety Company at the Opera House, Cape Town.

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.

194*? An Afrikaans pantomime version by De Wet Laubscher.**

1968: Performed as Ali Baba by the Port Elizabeth Gilbert and Sullivan Society,

19**: Performed by CAPAB as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, with Ulric Charteris in the lead role.


Bosman, F.C.L., Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. 1980: pp. 353, 364-6, 428.

Trek, 9(9):20, 1944.

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