Writer: J M Barrie
Adaptor: Alan McHugh and Jonathan Kiley
Directo: Barbara Evans
Reviewer: Dan English
Making a marked improvement on last year’s pantomime is Peter Pan at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre, with quality quips and excellent effects.
The story, perhaps a little rushed, is clear – Peter Pan and his followers fight to protect Neverland from the callous Captain Hook. This is a quick, polished and enjoyable piece that never drifts for too long and certainly keeps its young audience entertained.
Steve McFadden as Captain Hook, brings the perfect balance between devilishly despicable and suitably silly. McFadden oozes the cruelty and evil nature of the character but has the audience hooked by his delivery. McFadden’s execution of slapstick humour enhances his performance, with one scene involving a teddy bear being a particular highlight.
Andy Ford is the hapless Smee who provides a lot of the comedic relief in this production. The stereotypical goofy sidekick, Ford’s quick wit and slick timing are used successfully to bring this character to life and flog some of the drier gags, which rarely fall flat. There is a warmth and charm to his delivery, and the rapport between Ford and McFadden is clear.
Keisha Atwell is excellent as Tiger Lily, and her fierce characterisation is powerful, particularly in the larger ensemble pieces. Atwell’s vocal skills and comic timing are also tested in a busy second half, but it’s a test that is overcome with aplomb.
Peter Pan is one of those strange pantomimes where the eponymous hero often comes second to the other characters, and in terms of stage time, and narrative, this is largely no different. That said, Joe Sleight is instantly likeable as Peter Pan, as is Isobel Hathaway’s Tinker Bell, and the chemistry between both is clear to see.
Tania Newton as Mimi, the Magical Mermaid, is also strong, and her performance brings class and grace to the stage. It is also through her character that the elegant and detailed costume designs really come to life.
The production boasts a hardworking ensemble cast whose diligence and skill set is evident from the beginning. The choreographed numbers and slick, and the limited set of songs are delivered well. This is a pantomime with energy and enthusiasm that keeps the piece tick-tocking along nicely.
One of the play’s most memorable moments is the introduction of an enormous crocodile animatronic which closes the piece’s first half. The last pantomime at the Orchard rather bafflingly included an enormous, inexplicable, King Kong, yet this decision, to have a crocodile, fits the performance perfectly and mesmerises as it floats over the front rows.
The Orchard’s festive offering this year is a great improvement on its production twelve months ago. This is a fun, funny and family-friendly show that is high in quality and high in charm. A wonderful warmup for Christmas.
Runs until 5th January 2020 | Image: Contributed