Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls; Pantomime is alive and exceedingly well and living in the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton!! Peter Pan is a wonderful adventure through the imagination, harking back to childhood memories of magic, fairy dust and make believe.
The sets especially are truly innovative and glide in and out with ease. They portray various fairyland scenes, in glorious detail, transporting the audience from the depths of the lagoon to the high seas of the pirate ship and beyond. These magnificent sets are dovetailed with film sequences in a magical voyage through dreamland. Wonderfully creative and evocative lighting enhance and enrich every scene, making this production a visual triumph.
Peter, Daniel Boys, although a little macho and strident, plays his part well and mesmerises the children with his incredible feats of flying. His duets with Wendy Katie Ray are well balanced and enchanting. She portrays a protective yet vulnerable older sister who falls into an ultimately hopeless adoration of Peter Pan.
Her two younger brothers are touchingly played by Anthony Jenkins as John Darling and Adam Pinnock as Michael, clutching his teddy bear and eliciting ‘ahs’ of charm from the audience.
Lucy Benjamin plays a convincing Mrs Darling and doubles as Ethel Mermaid, the hilarious chief mermaid in a superbly staged and lit underwater scene.
Les Dennis as Smee captures the hearts, sympathy and funny bones of the sell out crowd and his comic timing and adlibs are in true pantomime style.
The star for me is Ben Richards as the ‘boo’ ‘hiss’ tour de force of Captain Hook, also understatedly playing the straight laced Darling patriarch. As Hook however he shines in malevolent magnificence. He rises to the repeated booing, building his part ever higher until his demise in the jaws of the larger than life motorised ticking crocodile.
All ensemble sequences are polished and hugely entertaining, especially the pirates’ tongue in cheek camping up of their evil plotting. The Redskins’ dance is powerful and the Lost Boys are inspirationally played by a chorus of highly talented youngsters.
The orchestra, dynamically led by Anthony England provides rousing accompaniment throughout, if a little too loudly at times.
There is not the over the top audience participation one normally associates with many pantomimes. This is a more sophisticated production, peppered with humour, magic and the belief that fairies really do exist.