Peter Pan (Croydon)

”Peter Pan” is not the most suitable of stories for adaptation into pantomime. Certainly it has a hero, a heroine, and a Grade A baddie, but its wistful evocation of childhood and the boy who never wants to grow up blends uneasily with the requirements of traditional Christmas fare

Elizabeth Carter & David Ribi
Elizabeth Carter & David Ribi
© Frazer Ashford

Peter Pan really works best on stage when played straight, but that is hardly an option here. Consequently, Smee becomes the Dame, turning up as the Darling children’s nanny, Mrs Smeeterton, as well as Captain Hook’s right-hand woman.

It’s a terrific turn by Quinn Patrick, making his third consecutive panto appearance in Croydon, but it makes very little sense of the story. That hardly troubled the vast array of cub scouts and brownies packing the front rows, and they had a whale of a time.

But for traditionalists there is something a little awry when Nana the dog suddenly does a break-dance routine, or when the Lost Boys appear singing "We are the lost boys" to the tune of "We will rock you" by Queen. We even get "Rule Britannia" when Captain Hook is toppled, and suddenly the show turns rather jarringly into the Last Night of the Proms.

Steve McFadden, one of television's best-loved hard men, gamely snarls his way through the role of Captain Hook with a nice line in self-mockery, but at times has little else to do apart from sit and scowl as the ensemble do a spirited and expertly choreographed dance number.

In fact the choreography by Jono Kitchens is one of the highlights of the show, particularly the routines for the Red Indians, which are fast, furious and almost Bob Fosse-like in their angularity. David Ribi makes a fine, strutting Peter and, as Wendy, Elizabeth Carter very skilfully combines the elements of the original character with the requirements of a principal girl.

The supporting performances are a delight, with particular praise due to the wonderful Kelly Chinery in her triple role as Mrs Darling, an Essex-girl mermaid, and Chief Squatting Cow. Nathaniel Morrison is also in great form as Starkey, the over-acting pirate, another mermaid, and a Red Indian who wants to be known as Beryl.

This being Peter Pan, the show is short on love interest but has some fun flying sequences behind projected video images; and, being a panto Peter Pan, manages to squeeze in some old favourites such as the ghost scene, a songsheet and plenty of terrible jokes.

This is a very far cry from JM Barrie’s Peter, but if you like big, noisy family entertainment, this will certainly fit the bill.