Well here we are ... pantomime season again! When asked to review this show, I prepared myself for the usual run of the mill pantomime, littered with little known stars and lots of children shouting, screaming and crying. By the time you get to my age you feel that you've seen so many pantomimes that nothing is going to be different.
Well I have to say that Peter Pan at the Theatre Royal Bath proves me to be very wrong! This is a good old fashioned family panto with plenty for everyone, yet it also has a freshness about it using several well known and recognizable songs, and plenty of references to current TV programmes that all would recognize.
Everyone knows the story of the little boy who never wants to grow up, and I suspect that deep within most of us lurks that inner child who "just wants to have fun" whether we're 8 or 80. Well if you go and see this pantomime you can go right back to your childhood!
Jessica Punch as Peter gives an exceptional performance, managing to portray the balance between mischievousness and impishness and bravery whilst also showing the boy's caring and "lost" side.
The flying sequences are magnificent and I take my hat off to Punch's acrobatic talents. She keeps the performance light and mercurial throughout. Joanna Forest's Wendy is lovely, sensitive and childlike in nature, whilst also portraying the motherliness which draws the "lost boys" to adopt her as their mother.
Cliff Parisi as Captain Hook and Mr Darling gives the part a good deal of humour. He appears to be quite a bumbling Pirate Chief, and I'm not quite sure that he would have inspired too many followers, however, this is panto, and the children love booing and hissing whenever he comes onto the stage. I think though that the star in his scenes is the crocodile, which relentlessly follows him across the stage, tick-tocking away.
Jon Monie, as Smee, is outstanding. Working a good deal of the time with Chris Harris (Governess Gertie) he has the audience eating out of his hand and provides an exuberance and professionalism which adds to his role.
When putting on a production of Peter Pan, there is always the age old question of how to portray the fairy. Should she be played as a real person or with lights and bells and sometimes a voice? Well in this production she is played by Victoria Hay and is extremely believable. Hay has just the right touch of "other worldliness" while still displaying the jealousy and vulnerability of this character. The children are never quite sure whether she is a good or a bad character until the classic moment when they are asked if they believe in fairies. I think the vote is a resounding "yes"!
The chorus play the lost boys and other parts and are excellent. The enjoyment and energy that everyone puts into the show is notable. The parts of John and Michael (at the press performance) are very well played by Oliver Prutton and Max Beament respectively.
The Indians and Pirates are excellent, and provide some wonderful acrobatics and dancing throughout the show. Amana Jones as Tiger Lily has just the right amount of dignity and impulsiveness and makes a lovely Indian Princess,
Director Chris Harris has cleverly kept the scenes short and given the little members of the audience lots of action follow. Also, song solos are brief and to a minimum, maintaining the pace well.
Musical director Peter Mitchell's score is supportive but never intrusive, and Lewis Butler's choreography provides some wonderful dance sequences.
If you haven't already got them, get your tickets for this enjoyable evening as soon as possible. You'll certainly have an enchanting time. Now there's a thought for a Christmas present ...
Peter Pan plays at the Theatre Royal, Bath until 12 January 2014.
- Barbara Maxwell