The Peter Pan pantomime performance at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham was a feel-good, farcical, masterpiece. Director and Choreographer Jonny Bowles took hold of the classic Peter Pan story and flung it into the shimmering spotlight of the 21st Century.
Peter Pan (Jack McNeill) and Wendy (Rosie O’Hare) were faultless. Their performance of the two characters was playful and delightfully entertaining. Special commendation ought to go to McNeill for putting up with Joe Pasquale’s cheeky antics throughout the whole performance.
“Smee (played by Pasquale) was absolutely hilarious and had the audience hooting with laughter”
Smee (played by Pasquale) was absolutely hilarious and had the audience hooting with laughter whenever he appeared on stage. Frequently, it seemed as if Pasquale had deviated from the script in favour of pestering the other characters and slipping in his own clever and improvised jokes. These witty digressions added to the comedic aspect of the performance and had the audience in near-hysterics at several intervals.
“The kids loved it and the audience seemed eager to participate”
The performance was particularly good due to the amount of actor-audience interaction. As expected in pantomime, there was a lot of back-and-forth banter between the people on stage and the members of the audience. Most of the time, this was brilliant; the kids loved it and the audience seemed eager to participate.
However, during the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ song, Peter Pan fired two water pistols repeatedly into the right-hand side of the dress-circle seating area. The majority of the audience shrieked with delight at this good-natured attempt at audience interaction, particularly the children; it offered something new and different to the age-old tradition of showering the spectators in sweets. However, some more mature members of the public didn’t appreciate this quite as much and stood up from their seats in order to hide under the balcony areas beside the dress-circle. Arguably, the water pistols were a fun addition, but not favoured by all.
“The audience became immersed in a thrilling under-water excursion”
Despite this however, The Twins FX (in charge of visual special effects), did an astounding job and involved the audience in a way that I had never previously experienced during a pantomime. For the second half, 3D glasses were distributed. The audience became immersed in a thrilling under-water excursion as Smee and Starkey (Paul Gabriel) simulated a submarine experience. This was an excellent and truly exhilarating aspect of the performance; it came as a pleasant surprise and offered an unexpected departure from traditional pantomime convention.
“The set was beautifully vibrant, with the bright colours and patterns capturing the attention of the audience”
In addition to this, the stage design was a work of art. The set was beautifully vibrant, with the bright colours and patterns capturing the attention of the audience. An interesting set design is, arguably, especially important for a pantomime production. Often, there are many young children in the audience, even small babies, and it can be difficult to maintain their focus for such a long period of time (two hours including the interval). The colourful set and elaborate costumes (coordinated by Wardrobe Supervisor Lesley Brown) definitely helped to keep the young audience members focused and entertained throughout.
Pantomimes offer an opportunity to for families and communities to come together for a bit of light-hearted fun and amusement during the bleak December nights in the run up to Christmas. This production of Peter Pan and the cast within it couldn’t have been more welcoming and inclusive.
At the end of the performance, Joe Pasquale invited the audience to sing happy birthday to a list of the audience members. He then brought four small children up on stage and they participated in a song and dance, after which, they offered small token-gifts. This was a particularly heart-warming moment and was received by well by the audience with smiles and laughs all round. Overall, I would highly recommend this pantomime production of Peter Pan for people of any age group, young or old. It was fun, witty, and an absolute pleasure to watch.
Featured Image courtesy of Isla Weir