Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

A good, unpretentious, old- fashioned panto.

Peter Pan

Owen Money Theatre Company , Theatr Brycheiniog , December 4, 2006
Peter Pan by Owen Money Theatre Company This review first appeared in the Western Mail...

What ! An Owen Money show without Owen Money ?

The first of this year's pantomimes (for me, anyway) has his name on the posters and his humour on the stage, but Peter Pan has only Mr Money's disembodied voice at the beginning exhorting us to enjoy the show, his absence forced only on doctor's advice.

And doubtless his fans and their children will again pack out the playhouses of South and West Wales, even if they'll miss the man himself, as his company rolls out a show that even without a star name has many of the ingredients that make a good, unpretentious, old- fashioned panto.

The dialogue, after all, sounds very Owen Money - as you'd expect from his own scriptwriter, Alan Wightman. In fact most of it runs on very verbal comedy, with endless wordplay that, I suspect, goes over the heads of the younger audiences, but is in keeping with the period music-hall flavour of it all.

In fact it's set in Edwardian London, where the Darling family lives, and a Neverneverland which sounds as if it's a particularly jungly part of the Welsh Valleys. That means we can have a rousing Lambeth Walk as the opening number and revert to local accents, with the exception of a Peter (David Rhys-Morris) who despite his name sounds like a public-school absconder, and Captain Hook (Richard Tunley, who also directs), an unreconstructed melodrama villain.

Tinkerbell, happily, is in Rhian Gregory's upfront portrayal a feisty Valleys girl who gets to show her sweet side, while Nikki Lang's Tiger Lily is a Native American clearly related to the lost Welsh tribes, played in true non-PC style.

J M Barrie's original is, of course, one of those so-called children's classics that, like Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales (as we see at The Sherman in Cardiff), hints at more problematic adult themes - not that we get that from the panto versions.

But even here the script touches on male chauvinism, class privilege, adolescent sexual awakening, desire and jealousy, bourgeois values, none of which seemed to connect with the exclusively sub-teen audience with whom I shared the show in Brecon.

I caught the opening performance which was for schools (plus this solitary adult critic) with all the attendant teething problems, like faulty radio mics, fluffed lines, uncertain moves, jokes that fall flat and the wrong harnesses - poor Wendy (Llinos Thomas) looked as if she was swinging from a gibbet and Peter appeared to be playing the lead in a puppet version of Richard III - but these problems will, I'm sure be ironed out.

But this Peter Pan isnít slick and aims, I guess, to retain some of the qualities of amateur or community traditional panto within a professional production. That pro-am feel isn't always easy to capture but at Brecon there was one definite plus - the dancers, which will be recruited locally, were here from Ribbons Dance School and some of them were of an impressive professional standard.

The Owen Money Theatre Company's Peter Pan is at Brecon until Nov 26, then tours to Aberdare Coliseum (Dec 1-9), Blackwood Miners Institute (Dec 13-30), Carmarthen Lyric (Jan 5-9), Port Talbot Princess Royal (Jan 13-28) and Cwmbran Congress (Feb 17-25).

Reviewed by: David Adams

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