Based on the novel by JM Barrie
Theatre Royal, Newcastle
The first thing that has to be said is that Peter Pan is not a pantomime. It is a play with music- and an awful lot of comedy! That said, it does have a number of panto elements which enable the kids in the audience to join in, just as they would in a "proper" panto. And it is great fun with something for everybody, even the dads in the audience: in how many children's shows are the chorus girls' costumes mainly bikinis with loin cloths? (They are supposed to be red indians!) And there certainly are not many shows where these girls come into the audience and sit on the knees of some of the men.
(I expect the production to get a great review from my local paper: one of the girls sat and cuddled the entertainments editor. He puts it down to his animal magnetism but I reckon it's because he was on the end of the row and I wasn't!)
Peter Pan is played by Stacey Cadman, from the BBC series Cavegirl, and she plays the part with great energy and attack, and is clearly at home flying. But although Peter Pan is the eponymous hero, the central character, whom the kids love to hate, is the villainous Captain Hook, played in this production by Tim Healy (Auf Widersehen, Pet!) who doubles as Mr Darling. For the latter he adopts his Geordie persona - for the Darlings live in Newcastle in this production (although the cloths used as part of the really superb set show us views of London) - and RP for Hook. He obviously enjoyed the villainous character thoroughly, winding up the audience whenever he could.
He is also no mean acrobat! As a rather drunk Mr Darling at the beginning of the play he took a pratfall off the stage into the pit, which the startled audience thoroughly enjoyed (although there were a number of voices querying, "Was he meant to do that?"), but he surpassed himself at Hook's defeat when he actually dived off the stage.
There is a tremendous amount of comedy in this production. Tim Healy has much of it, of course, but he is ably assisted throughout by Keith Simmons (Smee) and Jonny Regan (he of Big Brother fame, as Starkey). Regan is one of the very few Big Brother contestants who actually has showbiz talent, and he sings, dances and does the kockabout comedy routines with the best of them.
Three gymnasts (Alexander Jerram, Adam Wong and Kirk Zammit) play the other pirates. They have little to say but much to do and their acrobatic ability adds to the comedy.
Julia John plays Mrs Darling with an excellent Geordie accent, but it is as the Magic Mermaid that she really impressed. Whether it was her idea or director Alan Cohen's I don't know, but to play the Mermaid (and sing) in true Ethel Merman style was a stroke of showbiz genius!
Fifteen year old Lauren Hall, a local lass from down the road in Beamish in her professional debut, also impressed as Wendy, as did Daniel Henderson as Michael and Stephen Lawton as John, although fourteen year old John is no stranger to the professional stage, having appeared in Macbeth and Whistle Down the Wind.
As one would expect of a Qdos show, the sets, costumes, sound and lighting are superb. The audience loved it and, as the curtain fell, were buzzing. What more can you ask of a Christmas show?
Reviewer: Peter Lathan