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REVIEW: Peter Pan at Newcastle Tyne Theatre

Peter Pan

Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House 

Until Sunday January 7 2024

The Tyne Theatre pantomime continues to grow each year. It delivers a classic panto which is funny, looks good plus it sticks to the job of telling a story. The show understands the need to involve the audience so it is a show that they are a part of rather than something that is done to them. In a very good year for North East panto Peter Pan is a classy show that is very entertaining.

It is nice to be back at the welcoming Tyne Theatre. From the friendly box office staff to the wonderful team on the merchandise stand you are made to feel welcome at this theatre, even if they have multiple shows to handle on one day.

Is it really Charlie Richmond's 16th year as the Tyne Panto comic?  He puts so much effort into breaking the fourth wall, as Smee, and welcoming the audience to the show. In what may be some children's first visit to the theatre, Charlie shows that a show can be fun and local. He has great timing with both the visual gags and one liners. Not for him is the safety of having stooges from the audience to work with him. 

Another regular returns, as Mrs Smee, in the form of Lewis Denny (who is also in the Easter panto next year too). Peter Pan is an unusual story in that it puts the Dame and comic on the side of the bad guys rather than the heroes. This puts in a challenge for both Lewis and Charlie to be likeable whilst working with the character that the kids love to boo at.

The boos are reserved for Micky Cochrane. He is an imposing figure as Captain James Hook. The swagger that he used to have strutting the stage as the frontman of This Grounds Moves has translated well as the evil pirate who wants to get even with Peter Pan. Unlike some pantos, in this Guy Pascall script, the reasons for Hook's animosity is made clear. This is in part thanks to a crocodile that appears from time to time.

Every panto need balance and the good guys are fronted by Peter Pan. Matt Lapinskas is both the flying child who never grows up and the director of the show. He is thus responsible for a tight show which is hard to fault.

Tinkerbell is an odd character though - whilst clearly on Peter's side this Tinkerbell has real attitude. Phoebe Garr's fairy is not welcoming to the new arrivals and this helps give the show some edge. Cleo Demertriou's Wendy is happy to mother the Lost children but clearly won over Pan quicker than Tinkerbell would like.

It was good to see Sam Lavery get a chance to sing. She appears as Tiger Lily and she was delightful to hear during Roar. 

That then leaves a cast of dancers and children. In making this feel like a show with big production values, the ability of these performers to fill the stage during the dance routines works really well. You don't have an overcrowded space but well choreographed routines from Kerry Blaskett-Weatherall. A nice touch was to not only give the young dancers some lines to deliver but also their own number to sing.

The younger panto dancers and the roles of the Darling siblings John and Michael are also on rotation. On the matinee show that we attended the two lads were performed by Benjamin Conaty and Jake Weatherall respectively. They didn't put a foot wrong and had a chance to go flying too. 

Which is a good point to note that in a show like this one a lot of unseen people are needed to make it work. With up to 4 of the cast flying around at anyone moment and a live band, the show manages to have good sound and good visual effects. I, for one, am glad to see the back of 3D specs in panto and it was good to see some old school tricks in use.

The live band too, under Musical Director Andrew Soulsby, is able to cope well with staying apace with the antics on stage. I always feel that a show works much better with a live band.   

Peter Pan is a funny and well worked out pantomime that has a hard working cast that delivers an entertaining show. The show looks bright and feels energetic. There is plenty of opportunity to get involved - even with the youngsters down the front getting "cannon balls" to use on Hook at one point! It was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon with my son during the Christmas holiday.

Review: Stephen Oliver

Photos: Wycombe Media



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