Peter Pan and the Loose Boys
Chris Towndrow, adapted by Guildford Fringe
Guildford Fringe Theatre Company
The Back Room of The Star Inn
Time flies when you’re having fun and for the 6thconsecutive year Guildford’s only adult panto is landing in the Back Room of The Star Inn. Fast becoming a local tradition, the songs are slick, characters charismatic and the fun itself? Well of course, the fun is filthy.
This year Guildford Fringe presents Peter Pan and the Loose Boys, originally written by Chris Towndrow and adapted by the company. With a vague nod to the original story, all of your favourite characters make an appearance but with a twist.
Embroiled in Peter and Hook’s battle for Neverland are the loose boys of the title (‘lads, lads, lads’) but also sisters, Windy, Honey and Sweetie, a trio of Darlings who are far from innocent damsels.
Doubling as Honey and Sweetie and also the loose boys, Elle Banstead-Salim and Susannah White excel, squeezing every drop of comic effect from their lusty and bawdy dialogue. And, making a welcome return to the Guildford Fringe stage, Rebecca Withers is a sassy and headstrong Windy who quickly teaches Peter a sexy trick or two.
In the role of the dame, but this time with wings, is Ian Renshaw as Tink-My-Bell. Hard-drinking, quip-loving and owner of a bosom with a mind of its own, Renshaw’s sardonic Tink is naturally a scene-stealer.
Hot on his heels (or crocs in this case) however, is Emma Hough’s incredibly expressive Smee. Although Hook’s unloved sidekick, nothing is going to hold Smee back and, with apologies to The Greatest Showman, "This is Smee" is one of the standout moments of the show.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Neverland story without a hero and villain and Daniel Umpleby and Hilary Harwood are clearly having a ball playing the energetic but ultimately clueless arch-rivals.
Strong song and dance routines are a must for any pantomime but perhaps even more so for an adult script. Whilst altered lyrics guarantee laughs, the quality of the musical numbers is what lifts the show from potentially cringeworthy to a fully blown, energetic production. This year, the vocals are particularly strong and the cast easily carry off '80s classics, musical theatre staples, the odd chart hit or two and, in the case of Captain Hook and Smee, even a rap version of "Just the two of us".
Charlotte Bateup’s exuberant direction and choreography ensures that this production zips along, tongue in cheek and never knowingly missing an opportunity for innuendo. The inclusion of the flying scenes is a neat touch and thankfully there’s only a light smattering of Brexit jokes.
Peter Pan and the Loose Boys is a Christmas cracker stuffed with all things naughty but nice. Relentlessly upbeat, coarse and knowing, it’s worth booking a trip to Neverland to find your happy place.