I have yet to meet a single Scrooge in life who doesn’t love the story of Peter Pan and the wondrous place that is Neverland – who hasn’t thought about what it would be like to fly, be completely free from rules and never grow up? Certainly nobody sane! This year, Richmond Theatre have chosen a corker of a story to present as their festive panto, and have enlisted the help of none other than Robert Lindsay as their dastardly Captain Hook.
The play wastes no time and starts with a bang: we are immediately introduced to our bubbly Tinkerbell on skates (Isobel Hathaway), motherly Wendy (Vikki Bebb), and of course, our youthful hero Peter Pan (Harry Francis). The production is a timely 2-ish hours, but the script included all of the main moments from the beloved story, including the iconic flying to Neverland journey and grappling with pirates.
Robert Lindsay has an extensive on-screen and on-stage career, but several of us first knew him as the Dad in beloved sitcom ‘My Family’. Quite honestly, everything Linsday touches turns to gold – he has an infallible charm that tickles all age groups and brings joy via any medium. He is the perfect Hook: a natural leading man equipped with a confident pirate swagger, a commanding voice and a fantastic set of facial expressions. He is joined by the talent that is Jon Clegg, who plays the morally-conflicted Mr Smee. Clegg is a talented impressionist, so he adds an extremely fun dimension to the character and received an excellent response from the youngsters in the audience for his variety of voices and mischief.
This production was full of audience engagement, with a lovely scene involving input from young children selected by the audience, and just the right amount of classic panto dialogue – “It’s behind you!” felt especially fun to chant with a gigantic ticking crocodile in the background. The croc himself was a spectacle to behold, and the sets were visually excellent, especially the deck of the Jolly Roger and Peter’s underground home. I really enjoyed the inclusion of Mimi the mermaid (Rachel Stanley), as having a female comedic character added a greater comic diversity to the play, and the song between herself and Hook about being fish food was very entertaining – the occasional adult joke very well-received!
I think the production could have benefited from being longer, as we didn’t really get to know the Darling family very well, or the Lost Boys. The beginning of the panto felt quite rushed, so more of a build-up before Neverland, or extending some of the earlier scenes, would have drawn out the evening’s entertainment more effectively.
Robert Lindsay is a leading man not to be missed – ‘Peter Pan‘ is a fantastic contributor to the panto scene this Christmas and a joyous evening out for the whole family.
Reviewed by Laura Evans
Photo: Craig Sugden
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