The Widow Twankey is a character in the pantomime Aladdin.

She is a pantomime dame – a female character played by a man – who runs a Chinese laundry in Peking, China. One of her sons, Aladdin, is the hero of the pantomime, while her other son, Wishy Washy, helps in the laundry.

Named after Twankay, a popular tea from China, the character was first played by James Rogers at London’s Strand Theatre in 1861.


Since that time, variations of the pantomime have been revived on countless occasions and it has become a stock favourite on the English and International Christmas pantomime circuit. In 2004 and 2005, the famous Shakespearian actor, Sir Ian McKellen (left) played the role of Widow Twankey at The Old Vic.

In her own words, the Widow Twankey considers she has a classic face ‘like Helen of Troy - a face that could launch a thousand ships’. In reality her character is usually the source of jokes and innuendo, mostly centred on items of underwear on the washing line.

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