When it works as it should, modern
stage technology is a wonderful thing. When it goes wrong, then it's
up to the sheer professionalism of the cast and stage crew to ensure
that the audience continues its suspension of disbelief. This is
especially important for a pantomime, often a child's first
introduction to the magical world of live theatre.
At the performance I saw of Peter
Pan at the Towngate Theatre (which is in the throes of a
very smart upgrade for both front of house and backstage), it was the
computerised lighting system which took it upon itself to go
absolutely haywire. Simon Fielding, who plays Peter, explained what
had gone wrong to the understanding audience and, with the rest of
the cast, carried on with the show.
This version of J M Barrie's classic
has been written by Brad Fitt to accommodate some updating. Mrs
Darling (Sophie Ladds) is a raucous TOWIE wife on the razzle, not
entirely sympathetic to her (step?) daughter Wendy (Victoria
Farley) and briskly dismissive equally of her husband, the maid and
the child-pleasing dog Nana. Bryan Torfeh doubles Mr Darling, who
expects his trophy wife to be a miracle-working piece of perfection, and Captain Hook.
Farley plays Wendy as a much older
sister to John and Michael; she gives the part a sympathetic dignity and has a very
good singing voice. Fielding, who also directs, doesn't pretend to be
a young boy, which adds a certain frisson to his relationship both
with Wendy and with Julie Yammanee's Tinker Bell, whose sexual
jealousy is given full rein. Torfeh obviously revels in Hook's
gentlemanly nastiness, to meet his fate in the jaws of an extremely
effective crocodile which stretches practically the whole width of
the proscenium arch.
In this version, Smee is a she – Mrs
Smee, the Dame role taken by Dave Short. Nikki Worrall has
devised some fast-paced steps for the six adult dancers, led by
Michael Jean-Marain, with spectacular lifts and nimble footwork.
The band, under Kevin Oliver Jones, is corralled up on the balcony
stage right which gives extra space for the performers and the
revolving set. The children in the audience adored the flying
sequences; one little boy even had his wish to attempt it fulfilled
just before the end of the show.