REVIEW: Peter Pan

Peter Pan press shot - from left Smee, a member of the pirate crew and Mrs Smee
Peter Pan press shot - from left Smee, a member of the pirate crew and Mrs Smee

This year's Aylesbury Waterside Theatre pantomime guarantees a swashbuckling adventure for all the family.

Peter Pan lived up to the exceedingly high standards that the Waterside Theatre sets itself with its panto.

This year's title role of Peter Pan was played by Jessica Punch, who carried the show with great energy and vigour and engaged with the audience as soon as she arrived on stage.

Although not a household name with audiences (she was able to wander into the after show event virtually unnoticed) Jessica is a very experienced theatre and pantomime performer, however I was surprised when she told me after the show that she is not the greatest with heights!

A more familiar face to audiences courtesy of his TV work (in programmes including Taggart and Coronation Street) was John Michie, who played the roles of Captain Hook and Mr Darling. John has done plenty of theatre and although he didn't get many funny lines, he gave a great performance as the bad man and at the start and end of the show as the children's father.

The audience favourites are undoubtedly the double act of La Voix (Mrs Smee) and Andy Collins (Smee) who have such great camaraderie between them and are so experienced at theatre performance that they look at home on the stage.

La Voix was a bit slow coming in with one of her lines but managed to make light of it which is a testament to her professionalism. Andy was fantastic and as usual the 12 Days of Christmas Song proved my highlight of the evening.

Andy said on his breakfast show recently (BBC Three Counties Radio, weekday mornings, 6am to 9am), that this year's panto was the most physically demanding he had been involved in. I often hear people asking how does he combine the relentless panto schedule with his breakfast show and his other commitments.

My sources tell me he has been spotted napping between rehearsals which may go some way towards an explanation. Part of the reason for the physical demands of the panto is the inclusion of the pirate crew (Andy Rothwell, Callum Dyer and Tristan Crabtree) who were tremendously entertaining and athletic.

Andy is apparently a joint world record holder for the longest somersault and he wowed audiences with his trampoline style moves. Callum was making his panto debut and did an excellent job while Tristan was brilliant as well - they gave an excellent group performance.

Holly Atterton (Tinker Bell) did a good job although I couldn't get my head around a fairy on roller skates. Given that there were significantly more 'flying' characters this year I would have liked to have seen 'Tinks' up in the air more.

I felt we had to wait until the second half to see Holly, who has a top 75 album to her name as part of pop group GoGoGo at her best, as she then got the chance to showcase her renowned singing ability.

I would like to give a mention to some of Aylesbury's local talent. Members of the Susan Diane School of Dance made up the village children and the lost boys and did a fantastic job. Combining schooling with a theatrical run is undoubtedly demanding and requires full commitment from the child and from their unsung heroes - the parents.

I think the biggest compliment I can pay to this year's show is to endorse what a prominent member of the town centre team said to me at half-time: 'you have to pinch yourself and remember this is Aylesbury - it's so good it feels like you are watching a West End show!'

Peter Pan runs at the Waterside until New Year's Eve and if you haven't yet got your tickets I urge you to book so you can join in with a voyage full of music and fun - and although there is no danger of the ship sinking with so many capable performers on board you may still get wet!

Review by Neil Shefferd.