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Peter Pan (Brighton, Theatre Royal)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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There's a delightfully old-fashioned feel to the production of Peter Pan, this year's Christmas entertainment at the Theatre Royal, Brighton.

While many Christmas productions feel the need to stuff the cast with soap stars and pop singers and contain versions of the last chart hits, this production proudly stays true to its Edwardian roots. There are even delightfully old-fashioned names like Granville Saxton and Fenton Greyin the cast and rather than X-factor style ballads, we're presented with "Rule Britannia" and some Gilbert and Sullivan.

JM Barrie's story of a boy who won't grow up is virtually fool-proof and –  wisely – writer Eric Potts and director, the afore-mentioned Grey, see little need to muck around with the classic.  There's a splendid, rollicking Captain Hook from the splendidly-monickered Saxton, doubling as Mr Darling. He milks the chorus of boos and hisses for all its worth and goes to his crocodilian fate with a stiff upper-lip and defiant cry of “Floreat Etona”.

There's also a delightfully-camp Starkey, courtesy of Samuel Holmes, who adopts a full-on Kenneth Williams impersonation for the art. Holmes has just finished a tour as a singer in Round the Horne, and must have been watching the Williams impersonator carefully.

If there's a fault in the production it's that Harry Francis's Peter and Charlie Cameron's Wendy fail to capture any of the burgeoning sexual attraction between the characters. Barrie's book brilliantly deals with that cusp between childhood and adulthood and it's lost here. Francis, whose background is mainly in dance, is dealt a bit of bum hand as he's called on to do very little dancing.

The set by Terry Parsons captures both the children's nursery (although there's an anachronistic picture of Winnie the Pooh there) and the pirate ship, with an excellent silhouetted London skyline for the children to fly through. There's also an extremely realistic-looking crocodile that draws some squeals of excitement from the children.
This is a great evening's entertainment. The jokes work, the score's tuneful and the story is guaranteed to leave a warm glow.

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