In Poppy, playwright Peter Nichols subverts the pantomime, an archetypal piece of Victoriana, to explore a particularly dark moment in the history of Victorian colonialism – the Opium Wars. Classic panto hero Dick Whittington sets sail for India to seek his fortune in the opium trade, encountering such luminaries as the emperor of China and Queen Victoria along the way. Although the British characters ultimately live happily ever after, the implications for the defeated Chinese are much darker.
Poppy won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical when it was first staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1982. Since then, it has been revived multiple times on the West End to great acclaim.