Drawing

Aladdin

January 1919 (made)

Wood, Wilfrid René

Height: 15 cm, Width: 18.9 cm

S.1573-2014 T&P

Watercolour drawing by Wilfrid René Wood, showing the set for a scene outside Aladdin's Cave in the pantomime Aladdin, staged by Leslie Henson to entertain the troops, Lille Opera House, 1918-1919. Inscribed with a dedication to Leslie Henson and dated January 1919

Watercolour drawing, showing the set for a scene outside Aladdin's Cave in the pantomime Aladdin, with cliffs and boulders undera red sky. Inscribed in ink with a dedication to Leslie Henson and dated January 1919.

Actor and comedian Leslie Henson (1891-1957) joined the Royal Flying Corps during World War I and was sent to France, where he organised shows to entertain the troops. In the autumn of 1918 he was stationed in Lille, which had been recently evacuated by the German forces, and was able to stage revues at the abandoned Lille Opera House. After the Armistice in November 1918 the troops remained in Lille and, according to Henson’s autobiography My Laugh Story, the shows at the Opera House became a regular institution. For Christmas 1918 the army commander demanded a pantomime, which had to be prepared within a fortnight. The company staged Aladdin. Henson, who co-wrote the script with the second comedian Rob Currie, played Abanazar. He also devised the staging, utilsing some of the Opera House’s existing scenery which included what he described as ‘“Wagnerian” stuff’. The show was a great success. It opened on Christmas Eve 1918 and ran for six weeks, until Henson was demobbed. Artist Wilfrid René Wood (1888-1976) served in the Machine Gun Corps during World War I. Wood was an engraver and watercolourist who specialised in landscapes. In 1926 he designed a series of posters for London Transport, showing flowers in Kew Gardens.

Given to the British Theatre Museum Association by the executors of Leslie Henson in June 1959.

Given by the Briitish Theatre Museum Association

Location: In Storage

View this object on the V&A website