Saturday, 15 December 2018

REVIEW: Peter Pan - Theatre Royal, St. Helens.


Having seen several shamelessly unimaginative and generally boring pantomimes in recent years, I had vowed not to review any this Christmas and offer my reviews from previous years instead (since the plots, jokes and routines would not have changed). I am genuinely pleased to say I made an exception in going to see Peter Pan in St. Helens. I had a hunch this show would be different to the usual panto fodder and that definitely turned out to be the case. Peter Pan is funny, original and truly spectacular.

A good panto, like a good Disney, should work on both adult and child levels, and not be too dumbed down for old children. ‘Peter Pan’ admirably succeeds on all these levels, giving all the good things you expect from a traditional panto with lots of genuine surprises. The 3D backdrops are truly stunning and the sets are impressive and convincing (a lot more than just the usual painted back-cloths). Even something as predictable as having a few kids from the audience on stage has a brilliant new take included (but no spoilers here!). The production is completely seamless, with just the right mix of chorus dances and acting routines (but happily, no slap-stick cookery scene or similar overused stalwarts).Unlike a lot of pantos, Peter Pan has the feel of an ensemble production rather than being built completely around two or three stars. You never feel that any one character is hogging the stage and the constant coming and going of cast members is done very slickly. Credit must also be given to the original songs which for the most part, had a high level of sophistication, with a few well known pop songs thrown in (but not overplayed).

The cast of Peter Pan is both large and impressive, including some spirited performances from the child actors and a fine troupe of dancers, with some great costumes. Louis Emerick, best known from Coronation Street, leads the cast as Captain Hook, perhaps having not quite enough menace in his portrayal of the bad Captain but he certainly went down well with the audience. St Helens regular Lewis Devine had the audience in the palm of his hand as Peter Pan, gives a very energetic performance. As the boy who never grew up, he does actually appear very grown up, but no one seemed to mind. A genuine surprise was Kristina Rihanoff, as Tinker Bell. Well-known from Strictly Come Dancing, she showed she doesn’t just dance but can act and be funny, bringing a nice comedy touch to her character and clearly very much at home in Panto. Georgina Parkinson was well cast as Wendy; her flying scene with Peter Pan being truly something to behold. Special credit must be paid to Si Foster who as Mrs Smee, performs the Pantomime Dame role with seasoned professionalism and as the writer, clearly managed to think outside of the box in putting originally into a genre whose main selling point is its predictability. Having the normally male role of Smee turned into a Dame was a very nice touch, filling a panto expectation in an original way.

This is the first time in years I have been to a panto after which I can feel genuinely like looking forward to future Christmas shows at the venue. Peter Pan is everything that a pantomime should be, giving something for everyone and a bit more besides.

Peter Pan runs from until Sun 13 January ’19. For more information, please visit: www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com

Reviewer - John Waterhouse
on - 14/12/18

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