Review: Peter Pan (Floral Pavilion, New Brighton)

 

Here’s a fine traditional pantomime to savour, one that demonstrates why the form has proved so enduring. The Floral Pavilion’s Peter Pan appeals to the child in all of us with a show that’s full of wit, adventure and magic.

Julian Lane’s clever, intelligent script (with additional material by Anthony Williams and Jon Monie) retains much of J M Barrie’s original tale and delivers not just the comedy and general razzmatazz associated with modern pantomime but also a strong and thoughtful story, with interesting ideas about parenting, childhood and the qualities we all lose when we grow up. The moral messages never get in the way of the fun but they’re definitely there.

Mrs Darling, mother to Wendy and her two younger brothers, is caring and affectionate, but her husband (initially at least) is rather cold and distant, dismissive of his children’s enthusiasm for fairy tales and declaring that it’s high time they started acting more sensibly. He’s excellently played by Marc Baylis (Coronation Street’s Rob Donovan) and it seems entirely appropriate that when the action switches to Neverland the same actor reappears as the villainous Captain Hook, performed with suitably swaggering comic menace. Sarah-Louise Young similarly appears twice and displays very impressive versatility by being equally credible as the upper class Mrs Darling and, in Neverland, cockney mermaid Persil (whose siblings are called Ariel and Daz).

There are superb performances all round. Tim Edwards’s Peter Pan is an agile, quick witted hero, and Nicola Barney a convincingly sincere, considerate Wendy. Dan Wright as the pirate Smee has many of the jokes, delivers them with considerable aplomb and quickly establishes a relaxed, wisecracking rapport with the audience. The ‘nitwits’ (Jack Robbins, Paul Evans and Joel Price) are a likeable pirate crew and perform a showstopping acrobatic routine late in the show. Many of the other actors and dancers are children, including some from local stage schools, and their performances were so proficient it was impossible to tell who in the large company was a professional and who an amateur.

Visually the production is a feast for the eyes, with vibrant, colourful sets and spectacular special effects, as when Peter and the Darling children fly over the rooftops of London towards Neverland. Tinkerbell (Emma-Katie Adcock) wears roller skates and zigzags across the stage with speed and grace. We also get a large and very convincing crocodile.

There’s an occasional nod to the adults in the audience with jokes about Ryanair and Donald Trump, but essentially this is classic family entertainment, with scarcely a double entendre in sight. And the children clearly loved it, responding with unrestrained enthusiasm whenever they were invited to cheer, boo or sing. It’s a production full of neat touches: before the performance starts, instead of the usual po-faced explanation of what’s prohibited we hear the threatening voice of Captain Hook, warning that anyone in the audience caught taking photographs will have to walk the plank.

Hats off to everyone involved in creating this splendid show.

***** Pantomime at its best – wonderful entertainment

Photos: ©Brian Roberts

Peter Pan continues at the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton until Sunday 7 January 2018  

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