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posted/updated: 14 Dec 2018 -
Peter Pan
Written by Alan McHugh and Jonathan Kiley. Produced by Qdos Entertainment
society/company: Richmond Theatre (professional) (directory)
performance date: 13 Dec 2018
venue: Richmond Theatre, Little Green, Richmond-upon-Thames, Surrey TW9 1QJ
reviewer/s: Mr, Mrs & Mini Sardines (Sardines review)

Robert Lindsay as Captain Hook. Photo: Craig Sugden.


In his debut panto performance, veteran actor, singer and dancer, Robert Lindsay, takes on the most infamous pirate captain in literature, Captain James Hook. In doing so, he has earned Richmond Theatre’s annual festive celebration a top five-star rating as he brings a fresh and quite brilliant take on the one-handed villain. In addition, Mini Sardines even found himself selected to go onstage... as Qdos spectacularly proved my earlier assumption that the nation’s biggest pantomime producer had decided to swap children for adults, completely wrong.

While one of the six most-performed professional pantomimes, Peter Pan often causes some controversy as J.M. Barrie’s novel is the only title that isn’t officially a genuine panto (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Dick Whittington and Aladdin being the other five). There’s no natural role for a dame for a start but, as a Christmas show, the boy who never grew up and the Darlings’ flight to Neverland has been adapted many times, with royalties bequeathed to Great Ormond Street Hospital in Barrie’s will.

Ironically, it was Richmond Theatre that was used to film the theatre performances of Peter Pan in 2004’s Finding Neverland starring, Johnny Depp, Kate Winslett, Dustin Hoffman and Julie Christie. Fourteen years later and 2018’s pantomime, directed by Qdos’ Jonathan Kiley (who has also co-written the script with Alan McHugh), faithfully follows the novel with nearly all the central characters; Peter (played with flying, athletic bravado by musical theatre star Harry Francis), Wendy (Vicki Bebb), John, Michael, Tinker Bell (Isobel Hathaway on Rollerskates), Tiger Lilly (Keisha Marina Atwell) and the Indians, plus the Lost Boys (or ‘Children’), playing straight roles and solely driving the plot.

It’s then left to Hook, Smee, Mimi the Mermaid and the Pirate Crew (by association) to add the adapted panto element. With this in mind Lindsay hasn’t gone for the usual style of overplaying the panto baddie by shouting back at his booing audience. Instead, he brings out the truth of Hook while breaking down the fourth wall to present the captain as an irritable, ego-driven upper class pirate who almost never raises his voice… and yet the evil is there, constantly simmering away. With musical numbers thrown in to acknowledge Lindsay’s celebrated theatrical past, he treats the audience to adapted versions of Pick a Pocket or Two and I’m Reviewing the Situation as well as The Lambeth (‘Pirate’) Walk. There’s even a divine ‘fishy’ rendition of Frankie Valli’s Can’t Take My Eyes Off You which he hilariously sings with Mimi (played by a chavtastic Rachel Stanley).

At the opposite end of the scale is BGT finalist, Jon Clegg, who brings us an extremely likable and morally sound Smee. But then again, who wouldn’t like a pirate who sings the full version of Baby Shark! Clegg, who is a remarkable impressionist, enjoys several funny scenes on his own with the audience as well as alongside Lindsay.

Jonathan Kiley has found exactly the right amount of comedy to mix in with the novel’s storyline and, in doing so, has also created a completely fresh feel to the Qdos panto formula that one has come to recognise. However, you can’t have a pantomime without some special effects and, apart from lots of flying, we are treated to an impressive pre-interval scene in which the giant ticking crocodile appears and makes a move for Hook, nearly ending up in the stalls.

Peter Pan at Richmond Theatre is everything you could want in a family pantomime and especially for younger children who may be at the theatre for their first ever visit.

Peter Pan plays at Richmond Theatre until 6th January 2019.
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Robert Lindsay as Captain Hook. Photo: Craig Sugden.

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