Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Peter Pan

Qdos , New Theatre Cardiff , December 21, 2005
You can say what you like about Qdos, the UK’s No 1 Panto producer, and in the past I have done, but ‘shiver me timbers’, they do know a thing or two about putting a lavish, fun show for kids together, and their mums and dads as well. Peter Pan at Cardiff’s New Theatre is a fine example. The quality and magic of the scenery strike you the moment you take your seat, the swiftness of its changes and the wonder of its excellently painted pictures take us thrilling through the performance. It’s all superbly lit and accompanied by magnificent music from a five man team directed so well by Mike Morwood that you think the whole of the WNO’s orchestra is down there in the pit, playing like they’ve never played before.

The music blazes, the lights swirl and the curtain goes up on Old London Town and the chorus of energetic dancing girls and boys spring into life and we’re all gripped by the warm hand of pantoland! Local comedian Mike Doyle comes on and gives us a bit of banter, he’s got a friendly enough face but thankfully he’s not left on his own for long. The maturing Paul Nicholas as Mr. Darling enters and tries to join in the banter. There’s an attempt and a double entendre but it’s very inoffensive, just simply an entendre! That’s one of this show’s greatest assets no smut, no John Inmanisms.

Mr Darling takes us home to meet his family. Mum is played by Sara Weymouth, she makes a comfy loving mother but her attempt at a Welsh mermaid, if that indeed is what it is, is a bit all over the place but again a nice warm trusting face. Wendy’s brothers, Michael and John are suitable endearing children and Wendy, herself is an extraordinary delight. A very tiny lady who all the very young, tiny ladies in the audience can so easily identify with. She has a great singing voice and makes the perfect match for Aston Merrygold’s dashing Peter, who masters both the art of flying and sword fencing with great aplomb. He’s very exciting to watch but could make much more direct contact with his eager young audience.

Recent pantomime watching has lead me to think that the art of the pantomime baddie had been lost but Captain Hook’s hook and his nasty grin had the booings taking the roof off the theatre many many times. It almost felt as if all the kids in the audience had been rehearsed! It was this involvement of the audience, young and old that gave this panto another of its great virtues. We were all given great foam rocks that we were all able to pelt the cast with and they pelted us back. It was uproar.

And there was gentleness and the magic of the lost boys and the Never Never Land and Tinkerbell, a very attractive Gemma James, on roller skates, vying for Peter’s heart against Wendy, but everybody gets what they want in the end. Emily Hawgood made a strong presence as Tiger Lily, spurring us all on to make Indian curdling noises whenever danger was on the horizon. The greatest moments came when the whole cast came together in dance and singing and tumbling with the fantastic Acromaniacs, raising our spirits like they’d never been raised before. Then a delightful soft and magical ending, although Mike Doyle’s comic magic was totally purloined by an extraordinary seven year old young man who joined him on the stage, as he commented, a one-off moment for all of us. Peter Pan is as much a musical as a pantomime, this production artfully combined the best of both worlds.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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