Peter Pan (Chelmsford – panto)

These days you are much more likely to see “Peter Pan” in pantomimic guise than as a straight-forward play for children.

Samuel Parke, Kate Brennan & Neal Wright.
Samuel Parker, Kate Brennan & Neal Wright.

Simon Aylin has made this adaptation for the One From The Heart production company; it is directed by Nik Ashton. Peter Pan is starts in the Darling family's nursery as usual, but there's an introduction by servant Eliza (Kerris Peeling) as well as a dancing chorus of housemaids and footmen before we meet the children.

Mrs Darling (Katie Brennan) is somewhat bossier and more abrasive than in some characterisations of the role. When Peter flies in, searching for his shadow, he is played by Samuel Parker who not only looks and sounds right but projects a slightly feral quality; one feels that this lost boy could be truly dangerous.

Mind you, there is a feeling that Eve Crawford's Wendy is indeed a chip from the maternal block; you can see why Brennan's stroppy teenager of a Tinker Bell takes against her, just as Peter is drawn to her as more than a mother figure.

In the traditional role doubling, Jonathan Stewart plays both the harassed Me Darling and a curiously subdued Captain Hook. This Hook is certain gentlemanly, so much so that you wonder how on earth he ever controls his motley pirate crew.

Chief among these is Neal Wright's Smee who carries most of the comedy and has the audience rooting for him from his first entrance. Peeling plays Tiger Lily, as bossy in her encampment as Eliza is in the nursery. Local children are the Lost Boys with Charlie Toland and Matthew Hedges as John and Michael Darling.

Jaye Elster's choreography and Tom Curran's musical direction are effective. So are the flying sequences organised by Andy Sutton, with Peter's arrival in the nursery and the Darlings' journey over London's rooftops cleverly done.

Peter Pan continues at the Civic Theatre, Chelmsford until 4 January.