Peter Pan. Royal and Derngate Theatre, Northampton
Do you believe in magic? Do you believe in fairies? The pantomime production of Peter Pan, which is featured at Northampton’s Derngate Theatre this Christmas, was indeed a magical piece of panto. It is jam-packed full of all of the essential ingredients for a fantastic panto, with lots of extra quirks and surprises for good measure.
The story of Peter Pan is set in London, starting out in the Darling household, where Wendy and her brothers live. Their housekeeper is Ms (not Mrs, but Ms) Smee. She helps the children get to sleep at night by reading the story of Peter Pan. The story unfolds with the characters flying away to Neverland, where they have adventures and encounter panto baddy, Captain Hook.
Ms Smee (Cori Dupree) is haphazardly assisted by her son (Joe Pascale). These two characters bounce slapstick and tongue in cheek humour brilliantly off each other throughout the panto: Ms Smee is a buxom and dry witted grand dame with multiple, outrageous costume changes (which the audience are encouraged to describe as FAB-U-LOUS each time she enters the stage). Their scripts are littered with brilliant jokes (in asking about the breed of the Darling family’s pet dog: “what is a shtizu?” Pascale replies “it’s a zoo, but with no animals in it!”) and there are some genuinely silly scenes – when both are mermaids and Pascale slides off the rocks and can’t get up from the floor was one such daft episode. Just in case the humour wasn’t good enough already, there are surreal moments aplenty as well, including dancing penguins, collapsing barstools and an outstanding appearance by an aging rock and roll star which had the audience’s grown ups in absolute stitches (Ceri Dupree at his brilliant best!).
Aside from these characters, Peter Pan himself, Tinkerbell and Wendy are all delightful and childlike, appealing to the younger audience with their swashbuckling adventuring. They are full of energy and charm. The resident baddie, Captain Hook was loudly jeered by the audience who had warmed up well to their role, shouting and booing loudly.
Stage sets and in particular the visit from the Daddy crocodile showed off the brilliant design and special effects. The children in the stalls were very brave, even though some thought they were going to be the crocodile’s dinner!
Peter Pan was true magic from beginning to end and all the children I spoke to rated it at least a 9/10. There is something for all in this panto and unlike some children’s shows it is warm and friendly to its audience throughout and certainly the six year-olds boys helping with this review were in fits of giggles throughout. All in all, a magical piece of family entertainment which provides everything and more from the Christmas pantomime.
Karen Brenton (and Oscar and George aged 6) 4.5 stars
The show continues until 4th January
For details visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk