J M Barrie
The Capitol, Horsham
The Panto at The Capitol in Horsham is a popular affair and this Sunday matinée was no exception with a rowdy crowd of people of all ages enjoying J M Barrie’s classic story of Peter Pan.
It was good to see producer / director nick Mowat staying true to the story and, despite the high frequency of music and songs punctuating the plot, the lost boys' plight is marked with great sensitivity in parts. This is a crowd-pleasing panto with some particularly strong moments, well-timed dance sequences and lots of flying!
The design elements of the show are the first noticeable aspects of quality, with the use of video projectors to frame the stage as well as setting the various scenes throughout. We move from meeting mermaids under the sea to seeing Tiger Lilly and her gang in the jungle. The flying scene out of the Darling’s nursery over the rooftops of London works particularly effectively, cleverly gripping the younger members of the audience who looked on wide-eyed with excitement. The sets are also designed with great detail and colour and, despite one moment of a set change mishap, the backdrops really add visual delight to the show.
The comic elements of this particular performance are particular highlights with Anton Fosh almost stealing the show with his cameo as Pirate Trump. The threat of "building a wall" and being "the greatest" really resonated with the adults watching and there was great delight in this sending up of the President. Perhaps more of this might have been useful, as the (older) audience members seemed to be revelling in the more political lines.
There is no doubt that Hywel Dowsell is central to the comedy present within the script. His dame, Mrs Smee, is excellent and his jokes as varied as his many costumes. This is Dowsell’s third Dame at The Capitol and it shows in a performance that is assured and confident. This is highlighted beautifully in the ubiquitous "12 days of Christmas" song, with Dowsell seemingly leading the charge. This moment really stands out for its anarchic, comic style and is delivered with terrific timing. The classic "things going wrong that shouldn’t" is played out with great energy and interplay with the audience and is certainly a highlight.
The cast is led by Anthony Sahota’s bouncy and athletic Peter Pan. Sahota really grasps Peter’s naïvety and youthful lust for life, particularly in the way that he energetically moves around the stage. This is a likeable interpretation which is a compliment to Sahota, as this character can often walk the line between being young and innocent and slightly annoying. Fortunately, this is a strong physical performance and this Pan is on the right side of the line.
Jonathan Mawson’s choreography is inventive and well-executed by the strong dance troupe, ably assisted by a cast of local stage school pupils. It is a welcome addition to see the dancers taking on a variety of spoken roles, typified by Fosh’s Trump appearance. Despite some of the songs feeling a little out of keeping with the story (though perhaps this is a curse of the modern-day panto), the music did entertain the audience and on the whole works well.
This is a real ensemble effort and praise should also be given to Rebecca Lafferty’s committed portrayal of Wendy Darling and James Fletcher’s cheeky Mini Smee, returning to the Capitol for the third time. The audience call back for Mini Smee and Mrs Smee is a little convoluted but all the same we did enjoy interacting with both characters.
The full house left full of sugar, flashing lights and energy after experiencing this year’s panto at Horsham. Tickets are already on sale for Dick Whittington in 2020 and I wouldn’t bet against this being another commercial success in the Capitol’s calendar of events.
Reviewer: John Johnson