What an absolute stunner of a show!
Having been to the new look York Theatre Royal panto last year, we thought we knew what to expect – gags, silliness, great costumes and strong performances. But this show beats last year’s hands down.
We are told that it is the ‘All new adventures of Peter Pan’ and what this really means is that the storyline is a sort of Return to Neverland/Peter Pan 2 – in which Elizabeth, the daughter of Wendy Darling is whisked off by Peter and Tink to have her own adventures in Neverland. All the usual characters are there though, Captain Hook, the lost boys (and girls) and of course, the tick tock croc.
What hit us immediately was the quality of the voices of everyone on stage – particularly Wendy Darling (Francesca Benton-Stace) who starts the show off with a fantastic musical number. Her experience in musical theatre is absolutely clear from the moment she sets foot on stage. She also plays Myrtle the Mermaid later, a character so different from Wendy that my children only worked out that it was the same person from the style of her shoes!
This show was a perfect blend of slick choreography, sets that were set up and struck with ease, and some ridiculously funny props that didn’t work and left both the audience and cast in fits of laughter. Particular highlights were Starkey (Jonny Weldon) and Mrs Smee’s (Robin Simpson) boat that nearly fell of the stage and crashed into the set, and Mrs Smee’s James Bond style flying wires that seemingly got stuck inches from the ground!
There were set pieces aplenty, which my children love looking out for and recognising what’s coming – the multiple joke set up (this time involving fish) and the ghost scene (Well, we’ll have to do it again then, won’t we, wooo!) were met with much glee.
Captain Hook (Paul Hawkyard) was suitably grumpy and didn’t mind getting stuck in with the audience when they heckled and booed – he even had a good share of the jokes which were delivered with complete understanding that they were incredibly cheesy and pretty terrible!
Peter Pan (Jason Battersby) was the perfect combination of acrobat, singer and straight acting, which served to make the silliness around him seem even sillier. It was also great to see Faye Campbell as Elizabeth, we have followed her career with interest since the travelling panto and even met her at York Maze once – so we were so pleased to see back in a major role.
Last year’s most famous face was CBBC’s Andy Day (or as my son calls him, Andy Preasaurus), who was a firm favourite in our household and who was a great addition to the team. This year brings Maddie Moate of ‘Do you know?’ fame, who sparkles and smiles her way through the show with energy, exuberance, laughter and great comic timing. She’s a perfect choice for this sort of show, she’s clearly worked hard on her role and fits in beautifully with the rest of the team, including being able to sing and dance and even fly when needed. Having seen Maddie at the Edinburgh Fringe with her science show, we knew she was a great performer, but its nice to see her in an acting role.
A special mention for Smee and Starkey – an excellent team, full of energy and sardonic smiles – on occasion the milking for laughs went on a little longer than necessary, but it’s panto, so no one really minds.
This might be the best panto we see this season, it is certainly the very best we have seen so far, and sets the bar incredibly high for others to try to match.
You can book tickets via the York Theatre Royal website here
Images courtesy of Pamela Raith