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Review: Peter Pan (Richmond Theatre)

Robert Lindsay stars in Richmond Theatre's festive outing

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Robert Lindsay
© Craig Sugden

Every Christmas season sees another household name join the panto cabal – last year it was the likes of Al Murray or Beverley Knight, while 2018 sees Dawn French, Paul Merton and Robert Lindsay enter the fray.

It's Lindsay ruling the roost in Richmond. Complete with hook, hat and a bucket-load of eyeliner, he might look like a Jack Sparrow cosplayer, but he's a natural gem for the panto crowd young and old. Slipping into villainy like a well worn glove, the early scenes of Peter Pan see him dissect the limbs of a teddy bear, before being equally cutting to the orchestra for their poor performance (it's worth stressing that, led by Pierce Tee, the orchestra are actually pretty swell).

He's also brilliant with the knowing asides – "I don't deserve to be treated like this, I was offered the Palladium!" he moans as he's fed to the very hungry crocodile, after a brilliant rendition of a reimagined "Reviewing the Situation". Long may he reign over the panto world.

It's a shame that the show around him is so much less magical to watch. The plot (flying boy lurks outside young girl's window, takes her and her brothers away to be a maternal figure to a group of lost children in a fantasy world) is whizzed through faster than a Tinkerbell on roller blades (admittedly well played by Isobel Hathaway, one ramp away from a role in Starlight Express). While Pete Watts' lighting and Nick Sagar's sound are flashy, on the story side the Darling family are all but ignored, with Wendy having little to do other than fawn over Peter for no substantial reason and then get kidnapped. Tiger Lily and her followers, here rebranded as 'The Neverlanders', are dressed by Mike Coltman to look like they're one flight away from a sesh at Burning Man.

In the absence of a panto dame to oversee proceedings, most of the heavy lifting is left to impressionist Jon Clegg as the lovable ship's mate Smee. After a shaky start, Clegg manages to come into his own during the audience participation of the second act. But he feels a bit out of place, essentially resorting to trotting out impersonations of Alan Carr and Paul O'Grady to fill time.

But the show is Lindsay's, and it's him you should really go and see. His easy manner and casual charm is a perfect tonic to all the festive whimsying, and he's never afraid of a bit of self-mockery. Whenever he's on stage, the audience is well and truly hooked.