Peter Pan is this year’s offering at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool starring Barney Harwood (from CBBC) in the title role, with Gemma Hunt as the cheeky roller skating Tinkerbell.
The story sticks to familiar territory with Peter Pan and his fairy Tinkerbell coming to find his shadow in the Darling household and taking Wendy (Jennifer Done), Michael and John with him to Neverland. Once there they meet the lost boys and encounter Captain Hook, who is frightened of the crocodile which years before had bitten off his hand. After a few adventures Peter takes the children home and lost boys accompany them back to London where they begin a new life with the Darling family, Peter meanwhile returns to Neverland. Along the way we have plenty of audience participation, water pistol fights and flying.
Harwood is perfectly cast as Peter, he has the cheeky boy appeal and looks every inch as you would imagine Peter Pan to look. Out of the other leads Steve Royle as Smee holds the show together from when we first meet him on the streets of London. Without Royle the show would be very dull and he is too obviously keeping the whole thing afloat. Gary Turner (Emmerdale) as Captain Hook plays his character for laughs and stops at being too evil for the young audience, but when switching to playing Mr Darling, he seems uncomfortable and for some reason suddenly fails to connect with the audience in the way he does when playing Hook.
Playing a variety of roles until they managed to fit in their acrobatics speciality act are the Nitwits. The three performers, Clinton Purnell, Kirk Purnell and Andy Rothwell have very little to do and it shows as they pad out several scenes until it is time for them to perform as an acrobatic troupe.
The scenery by UK productions does not add anything to the panto as the sets are basic and look as if they had seen many previous Christmases. But full credit needs to be given to Harwood, Hunt and Royle for making the script by Maurice Lane work and ensuring the audiences leave the theatre on a high.