Monday, 17 December 2018

REVIEW: Peter Pan at the Richmond Theatre

Robert Lindsey has waited until his sixty ninth year to make his Pantomime debut and celebrated his birthday at the Gala night performance of Peter Pan at the wonderful Richmond Theatre. It is a perfect combination of the glorious late Victorian theatre and a musical theatre legend revelling in the role of Captain Hook. Over the proscenium arch it says "to wake the soul by tender strokes of art” and with this production the whole family are sure to be stirred by the artful performance.

Dressed in long ringlets and a bandana, Lindsey looks more like Jack Sparrow than Dustin Hoffman in the film Hook but he brings a delightfully cool, Shakespearean, considered delivery with long slow asides into the wings and glances into the audience reacting to each heckle or comment. At every entrance the attention is drawn to him without speaking and he controls the action and pace of the scene. There is some good wordless business down stage left with the stage hand supplying a cup of tea and a sword.

When he bursts into song he reminds us immediately of his Musical Theatre pedigree. We are reminded of the "Lambeth Walk" (from when he starred in Me and my girl) and given a cleverly rewritten "I am reviewing the situation" (from Oliver). He also delivers a wonderfully funny duet with Mimi the Mermaid (Rachel Stanley in fine voice) of "you are just too good to be true" surrounded or frustrated by three scantily clad showgirls with feather fans. He also reminds us of his TV success many years ago as Citizen Smith with a call of "Power to the people" while acknowledging that the lost boys and most of the audience are too young to understand the reference. 

He is well served by Jon Clegg as Smee, the ship's entertainer and they do a well judged mastermind routine of corny old puns. Clegg runs through his range of excellent impressions including Alan Carr, Michael McIntyre, John Bishop, Kermit and best of all Donald Trump. He is less successful with a Biscuit routine, which the producers have also included in the Wycombe Swan Pantomime; in both cases is simply not funny enough. However he is excellent with the kids in the songsheet of Old MacDonald's Farm , especially when one child selects a dolphin for her animal and he and Peter Pan do a good job involving the audience in another Panto standard of a training sword fight. 

To get these two stars on as early as possible the writers Alan McHugh and Jonathan Kiley (who also directs) give us a whistle stop tour through the early part of the story and dump Mr and Mrs Darling from the story , the lost boys shooting Wendy on arrival in Neverland and the marooning of Tiger Lily on a rock . However it does allow plenty of time for the two stars to do their own business. 

The opposition to Hook is provided by Peter (Harry Francis), Tiger Lily (Keisha Marina Atwell), Wendy (Vikki Webb) and Tinkerbell on roller skates (Isobel Hathaway) and of course the Crocodile. Act 1 closes with the giant Crocodile filling the stage while the principals sing "you have got it coming" (from Chicago) and Hook's final exit is in a flown net to cries of "Infamy, they've all got it in for me".

There is a lively ensemble of six who play the Indians and Pirates and the lighting by Pete Watts is varied and interesting most notably in the opening scene in the nursery and in the "In the Navy" routine that opens Act 2.

The sets are effective with a good, though short scene in the Darling’s Nursery and a very good Hook’s ship and the lighting is excellent by Pete Watts.

This is Robert Lindsey's show and he is a joy to watch but he is well supported by the rest of the cast and this is a perfect well judged pantomime for this beautiful theatre. Let's hope it not the only time he treads the boards at Christmas.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★★
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