Martin Dodd for UK Productions
Anvil Theatre Basingstoke
This year the Anvil will ‘hook’ you from the start in this family friendly panto because Peter Pan has flown into Basingstoke town.
Writer Julian Lane has kept faithful to J M Barrie’s original story. The colourful sets and costumes with striking projections set the scene for a magical production.
Jessica Punch is excellent as Peter, the boy who is determined not to grow up and quickly won the support of the youngsters who were eager to join his gang.
He flies into the Darling’s home in London and persuades Wendy, the charming Jenny Huxley-Golden and John—played on the day I saw it by Joe Hubbard-Bateman and Michael (George Vidler)—to join him in an adventure to visit Neverland, “second star to the right and straight on till morning.”
The flying scene over the streets of London is most impressive and had the youngsters in the audience gasping with delight.
Andrew Agnew of CBeebies' Balamory returns to Basingstoke playing the amiable Smee and also inventively directs the show. He obviously relishes his role and has a warmth and instant rapport with the audience.
He also has the entire groan-making jokes that had both the adults and youngsters chuckling, although when one of his gags failed he told us, “I wasn’t born in Basingstoke but I’m dying here.” It was that sort of show.
Always protecting Peter is Tinkerbell (Helen Petrovna), the roller-skating fairy with attitude, as she becomes jealous of Wendy and she sings well.
Every panto needs a baddie and Gary Turner is a powerful, evil Captain Cook who richly deserved all the boos from the audience but he sought his revenge on us with water pistols that simply grew larger and larger.
He is ably assisted by his motley crew of the Jolly Roger (Andy Rothwell, Jack Horner and Tristan Crabtree) who also perform a hilarious and skilful acrobatic act.
Sarah Louise Day is the upbeat, sassy Mermaid with a cockney accent who entertains us at the magic pool and Laura Harrison as Tiger Lily captured by the pirates is finally rescued by Peter.
The stand-out highlight is Peter soaring through the audience flying to the back of the circle whilst performing somersaults—breathtaking!
With a spirited musical score of songs under the direction of Martyn Cooper, this is a high-flying panto that’s an ideal way to celebrate the festive season.
Reviewer: Robin Strapp