“a celebration of all that is silly and fun about pantomime, something all the family can enjoy and most certainly will!”
According to Jeff there are six great pantos. According to Dan there are twelve, but his list does include the Queen’s speech. And all six (or twelve) are about to happen in potted form on the stage of the Southwark Playhouse!
Our first pantomime is Jack and the Beanstalk, featuring an ill-timed beanstalk entrance, a moose that lays golden eggs and a mother in a pink feather boa who can’t afford that next bottle of Bollinger, darling. Next up, Dick Whittington, Show White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and finally Aladdin, unless Dan gets his way, in which case it’ll be A Christmas Carol. The northern fairy in Sleeping Beauty is a particular highlight as is Cinderella’s French God-Chicken.
As we travel through the different pantomimes, we also learn about the different pantomime traditions, as Jeff teaches Dan and the audience at the same time. All the classics are there from, “He’s behind you,” to “Oh no he isn’t.” There’s audience participation including a 3D experience of Cinderella’s coach ride home after the ball. There’s satire of course – Dick Whittington is a close imitation of Boris Johnson complete with messy blonde wig and prevaricating Eton voice. Brexit makes an appearance, and overall the show strikes a good balance between entertaining both children and adults alike – although they may not be laughing at the same thing!
Simon Scullion’s set is simple background for the different stories that is brought alive by the wealth of costumes (Nicky Bunch) and props that are paraded across the stage. The windows cut into the set are ideal mechanisms for cameo appearances and entrances from fairies, Prince Charming and the Queen of England.
Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner are a comedy duo who have been working together for years, including as CBBC presenters. As well as performing in the show, they are its writers alongside Richard Hurst. They are clearly having a fantastic time together onstage, and it’s infectious. Clarkson is perhaps the more compelling performer of the two, but still they balance each other well, transforming between a host of characters with ease and wit. There’s a lot of very clever stuff in it, but at its core it’s about having fun, and the constant laughter from the audience was an undeniable measure of that.
This is a celebration of all that is silly and fun about pantomime, something all the family can enjoy and most certainly will!
“Simon Scullion has designed a set that seems to be always on the verge of killing someone, yet manages not to”
Glorious slapstick, wonderful cheeky humour, and a completely mad ‘plot.’ Peter Pan Goes Wrong has everything you could possibly want from a hilarious evening at the theatre.
Once again I had my nine year old sidekick, Manu, with me to help with the review. He loved it, I loved it, clearly the whole audience loved it. Manu’s favourite bits were the most outrageous physical ‘mishaps’; the collapsing sets, the appearance on stage of the crew, trying to fix things with a chain saw and various other alarming tools. But the fun began even before the show did. Cast and crew moved through the audience, getting in the way, running wires, looking for lost equipment and chatting with people in their personas as amateur actors on their way to perform. Patrick Warner the narrator, who also plays the Cecco, the Italian pirate, made Manu a balloon dog and Ciaran Kellgren who plays Peter Pan came along, playing the star. ‘You know who I am,’ he informed Manu, and luckily he did, because he’d been reading the programme. ‘You’re my biggest fan’ crowed Kellgren and signed his programme. One very happy boy, even before the play officially began.
Another thing that Manu loved was the number of characters some of the cast played. Phoebe Ellabani executed some lightning changes right at the beginning, transforming from Mary Darling to Lisa the maid in seconds. Several times. Later she became both Tiger Lily and Tinkerbell. Peter Pan’s flying was incredibly skilful. He made it look shambolic, dangerous and very, very funny. I don’t want to give too much away, but when the ‘stage hands’ came on to wire up the Darling children for their flight to Neverland they didn’t exactly manage to do it right. You’ll have to go and see it if you want to know what happens! It’s hard to convey the sense of breathtaking chaos. Nothing goes right, and everything is perfectly judged.
Romayne Andrews, as John Darling wearing headphones that ‘fed him his lines,’ had some fabulous moments when he unknowingly tuned into the shipping forecast, or the ‘backstage chat,’ repeating everything verbatim. Tom Babbage’s Michael Darling/crocodile combo won the hearts of us all, when his secret passion was revealed, his charm and vulnerability turning him from a geeky kid to the audience favourite. Connor Crawford’s outrageous and exasperated Captain Hook was determined that the play was NOT a pantomime, but nothing was going to stop the audience taking up the traditional ‘oh yes it is! Oh no it isn’t!’ call.
Everyone in the cast deserves mention, as they were all superb. Katy Daghorn was a Wendy holding it together with Sarah Bernhardt aplomb, Oliver Senton bumbled and growled as Starkey, woofed his way across the stage as Nana the dog and was determined that he was the Co-Director, not merely the assistant. Georgia Bradley was a sweet Tootles, injured and stuttering but finally triumphant and Ethan Moorhouse’s Trevor the Stage Manager was the epitome of incompetent frustration, trying to fix everything as it collapsed around him. Although the collapse was probably his fault in the first place, his team of Assistant Stage Managers, Eboni Dixon, Christian James, Soroosh Lavasani and Ava Pickett ‘helped’ with startling uselessness.
Just when it seems impossible for things to fall apart even more spectacularly the finale happens. And it seems to happen to the cast, rather than be created by them. The revolving stage revolves, everything seems on the edge of total implosion and somehow the characters arrive at something approaching the expected end.
Simon Scullion has designed a set that seems to be always on the verge of killing someone, yet manages not to. The lighting and sound design add beautifully to the explosions and mishaps. And it’s all shaped into a tight, crazy farce by Adam Meggido, who expects a lot from his cast and absolutely gets it.
The whole thing is a superb romp that anyone from nine to ninety will love, acted and directed with whip smart skill. Manu and I both say ‘go and see it!’ You won’t regret it, although your ribs may be sore from laughing.
Reviewed by Katre
Photography by Alastair Muir
Peter Pan Goes Wrong
Theatre Royal Brighton until 24th November then UK tour continues