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Corn Exchange - Aladdin

3rd December 2020 to 3rd January 2021

Review from the Newbury Weekly News and the British Theatre Guide.

Just what we all needed

Corn Exchange panto Aladdin gets Newbury in the Christmas spirit

Aladdin, at the Corn Exchange, Newbury, until January 3

It’s panto time at the Corn Exchange – oh yes, it is! – and it’s wonderful to be back in the theatre that has been transformed with new seating and is Covid-19 secure.

There was much excitement in the audience as we entered the beautifully decorated auditorium, with hanging coloured lanterns and strings of lights to help us get in to the Christmas spirit. Refreshingly modern and wittily written by Plested and Brown, we prepared to take off on a magic carpet ride adventure in this year’s stunning production of Aladdin.

With a bright, sparkling set and glittering costumes, the exceedingly hard-working and strong cast filled the stage with festive cheer as they welcomed us with the opening number I'll Be There For You – and we are so glad they are.

Ben Harlow is the decidedly nasty Abanazar, a dead ringer for Joe Exotic in his animal print costume – certainly the villain who is determined to find Aladdin for assistance in his evil plans to find the magic lamp.

He has an Apple watch to help him. Well, it’s a watch with a real apple that he uses to summon Celia Siri (the delightful Emily-Mae) to help him.

Every panto needs a Dame and Philip Elvy returns this year as Widow Twankey who runs the laundry, giving a brilliant performance with every costume change more outlandish than the last.

Her son Aladdin, the charming, charismatic, rollerskating George Olney from Hungerford, who first made his stage appearance in Newbury as junior cast member over 13 years ago, is impressive.

He has fallen in love with Princess Jasmine (Nikita Johal) and is determined to find a way to enter the palace, ingeniously hiding in a huge Amazon box and hopes to marry her. Susan Harrison gave an exuberant portrayal as Wishee Washee, played as a cheeky dog with a risqué, bubbly performance that everyone loved.

Her improvised rap, using the names of youngsters who had birthdays, was so clever utilising her experience as a member of Showstopper! The Improvised Musical.

Aladdin is tricked by Abanazar to climb down into the cave to retrieve the magical lamp and meets Gerald the ginger Genie (Ben Barrow), who is hilarious.

But how to escape and find Princess Jasmine while the rest of the cast travel by plane? Aladdin uses a magic carpet in a spectacular flying scene (now how did they do that?).

There is excellent support from Gleanne Purcell Brown and William Beckerleg, who had us all exercising as Joe Wicks in a workout session.

Adam Brown’s spirited direction is playful, fun and bang up to date, with loads of local references and groan-making jokes.

There is so much to enjoy in this spectacular show for both adults and families – it’s a must-see show and an absolute Christmas tonic.


Review of Adult Night from the Newbury Weekly News.

Newbury Corn Exchange Aladdin Adult Night delivers

No near-the-knuckle jokes missed here

Aladdin, Adult Night, at the Corn Exchange, on Saturday, December 12

Deft, Daft and Defiant, Plested and Brown’s Aladdin at The Corn Exchange, Newbury is the most unlikely of events, which hits home towards the end of the show when Flight-Crew-cum-Fairy-Godmother-cum-Digital-Assistant Celia Siri triumphantly exclaims: “we did a panto in a pandemic!”.

This distinctly British tradition, with its roots in 15th century Italian theatre, blended with the bawdy brashness of Music Hall, has become the mainstay of local venues every Christmas and is usually central to financial survival. This is why, in any other year, there are literally thousands to choose from in small towns, big cities and in the West End.

But this is 2020, when there are perhaps little more than 50 productions nationwide and what a showstopper this is. With the spectre of Covid over everything in our lives (with the distinctly boozy ‘Adult Night’ crowd in booths, masks on, having passed through a temperature check) it would be easy to allow it to dominate the performance. However, instead we are treated to a script which gives us every touchstone of the year, from Netflix hits (Tiger King) to political misses (Barnard Castle), delivered by a cast who relish every turn!

Whether singing classics like Tom Lehrer’s I Got it from Agnes or delivering more contemporary moments of fourth-wall breaking buffoonery, their unswerving exuberance is (like whatever Dame Twankey is actually talking about in Lehrer’s song) utterly infectious.

True to the origins of Pantomime, everyone has an opportunity to showcase individual talents, whether that’s roller-skating, saxophone and improvisation, or singing, dancing and comedy. None of the near-the-knuckle jokes that would usually fly over any kids in the audience are missed here, but neither is there a forced effort to make the show more ‘adult’, which shows excellent judgement from the whole company.

Speaking to some of the audience in the interval, it is clear that these special grown-up performances have become a tradition in and of themselves, and in a year in which we have had to give up so much, a sense of normality and the desire to relax and have a good time has never been more important.

That aside, Aladdin delivers on every level: it’s panto-sparkle, sharp satire, silliness and sass will raise a smile on any face and remind you of the magic of live entertainment, which we have missed so much.


There is a review from Wokingham Today ("the entire theatre has been decked out in Oriental trappings, the painted backdrops are wonderfully evocative, and the magic carpet in particular made my jaw drop").