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Tuesday, 24 December 2019

REVIEW: Peter Pan at the Liverpool Empire

Pantomime is a great British Christmas tradition which brings whole families together but a recent development has helped make it even more accessible for everyone with "relaxed performances" aimed at people with learning or sensory disabilities. These performances reduce sound, lighting and pyrotechnics to lessen sensory overload , edit most frightening scenes and have house lights on to allow people to leave auditorium if they need to. The Empire version of Peter Pan had its relaxed performance on Friday 20th December at 2pm and it was clear from the start that the cast enjoyed it as much as the audience. They all came on to introduce themselves to the audience out of character before the start and to explain that Hook was really a very nice man! 

In any case the emphasis of the production is on a lively fun and daft version of the famous story with much of the traditional story jettisoned. There is no Mr and Mrs Darling in the nursery, no "kiss" given to Wendy, no shooting of the "Wendy bird" as she arrives in Neverland and no marooners rock scene. In addition Tiger Lily becomes Tiger Billy (Asa Elliott) and a new character is introduced with Cut-Lasses Kenneth (Tony Maudsley), the hairdresser addition to the pirate crew direct from Benidorm Live.

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.

Friday, 22 December 2017

REVIEW: Peter Pan at the Birmingham Arena and the Wembley Arena

Peter Pan at the Birmingham arena (for 4 days) and at Wembley arena (2 days) is billed as the worlds biggest pantomime and by some measures it is . The vast auditorium seating 5000 and a cast of 100 with two big stars in Bradley Walsh and Martin Kemp promises a lot but somehow the story gets lost in translation to this vast space . What we are left with is a Christmas variety show with a comedy ring master and a loose connection between each scene.

The problem is visible as soon as you settle into your cramped seat with a £10 programme in hand . No one has a good view of all the action as the long thrust stage runs through the lower tier seating and half the audience are viewing side on. The large LED screens which are used for some excellent scene setting visuals as well as close up projections of the action become the main way to work out what is going on as the cast fill the available space on the stage and spill onto the large walkway in front of the tiered seating .

There is no magic in this production. When Peter first appears high up at the back of the auditorium you hope he might fly down to the stage but he does not. When he and Wendy do eventually fly they emerge from behind the screens with the full pulley system on show . Worst still when overage Michael and John fly you can see the stagehand pulling hard on the manual lift. When the crocodile finally appears he can only get half way along the thrust stage so the pirates including Hook have to walk back to it and throw themselves at it. You can see these key moments done so much better in many theatres around the country this year.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Peter Pan at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon

Pantomime is all about traditions in story telling and the audiences familiarity with the comedy routines and interactions with cast . But it is also fun to see new ideas and innovations in the production and this version of Peter Pan introduces us to a new character Eliza (who becomes Tiger Lily in Neverland) and the unusual pairing of the roles of Mrs Darling and Tinkerbell and it is these two roles that stand out at the Wyvern theatre in Swindon . Eliza is played with a delightful charm by Danielle Black and she is the first to get a reaction from the audience and then leads a lively well choreographed opening number in the nursery with the ensemble and juvenile chorus to get the show off to a great start.

TInkerbell is introduced as a green laser spot flitting around the stage until she bursts from the dolls house played by Abigail Matthews with lots of attitude and immediately taking against Wendy, played as a young girl by Lucy Pollard who never really mothers the confident Lost Boys or Peter Pan (Ryan Anderson). 

Monday, 4 December 2017

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Peter Pan at Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury

The Marlowe production in 2016 won a pantomime of the year award with Dick Whittington and this year's offering of Peter Pan starts with great confidence using a camera to poke fun at the audience and an excellent Peter Pan graphic and London skyline animation. This transports us into a very strong opening scene in the Darling's nursery. The fresh approach bringing the whole cast into the nursery, not just the Darling family and Peter Pan but also Mrs Smee, Lily and Starkey. Their entrances, the children through the stalls, Mr Darling in a circle box and Peter flying in from the upper circle creates an exciting dynamic opening. Added to this is a break dancing Nana the dog, an effective projected dancing shadow and a lively dance routine. 

The strong opening continues with a good flying sequence to "Don't stop me now" to Neverland and a brilliant comedy routine with a wheelbarrow of fruit which firmly establishes Mrs Smee, Starkey and Hook as the driving energy of the production. But just as Mrs Smee comments "if you listen carefully you can hear the sound of JM Barrie revolving" , the show settles into a traditional telling of his Peter Pan story and the production never quite hits this level of the opening scenes.
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