Reviewed by Katy Nettleton
Our family was fortunate to be invited to review the famous Derby panto at Derby Arena, this year it is Peter Pan. I was curious on how it would be laid out as I have only been to the arena to play sports before! All I can say is you don’t think you are in the middle of a velodrome once you take your comfy seats.
So, what can I say, if you are reading this review you are probably wondering if it’s worth going to? All I can say is that it was brilliant, the smiles on my children’s faces (aged 9, 9 and 6) made it worth every penny (tickets are priced £31.50 – £13.50). There was lots of laughter (I thought sometimes there was a little too many parent jokes (clean jokes but puns that children just didn’t understand) but this did not distract from a brilliant family show which got everyone laughing and tapping along.
The star, studded show follows the tales of the cheeky little boy Peter Pan (played expertly by Thomas Grant) who can fly and has many adventures on the island of Neverland whilst making new friends with mermaids and pirates. Peter Pan takes Wendy Darling (a beautifully portrayed innocent, pale girl played by Rebecca Brierley) along on his adventures and creates life-long happy memories, reminding each of us that we are still children at heart!
There was brilliant staging, traditional slap-stick humour (as needed in a pantomime) and also extra effects (which I won’t describe here to keep you guessing!) which kept the show alive and children’s attention all the way through. I particularly loved watching the bands faces as you could tell they were loving being part of the show and was not always sure what to expect!
At times the audience was unsure if it was “audience participation” or just a short break in the script, but the “cast” covered this well, especially Quick Draw McCaw (played by Richard Brindley) who added light-hearted humour and quick witty responses that had us guessing if it was planned or not!
As with all pantomimes you can’t got to a pantomime without speaking about the Dame, Auntie Hilda (played by Morgan Brind) who was exactly what you want from a panto; bright sparkly, quick-witted and dressed to impress. Morgan Brind was brilliant, Auntie Hilda brought tears to my eyes with laughter!
You could tell that Tinker Bell (played by Katrina Ryan) was enjoying herself and loved being on stage and entertaining families. I did think that at times her voice was not as strong as it needed to be, however this is not a musical, but a few additional songs added to a brilliant pantomime. Tinker Bell also did really well when there was a technical issue with her microphone (which was quickly resolved).
Now, what can I say about Captain Hook (played by Bill Ward)? He had my son worried, sheltering behind his hands; but looking through the gap in his fingers as he wanted to find out what was happening! He was the right side of scary, he had the little ones a little bit on the edge of their seat but older children (mine are aged 9) watching eagerly to see what was going to happen next.
Wendy Darling (played by Rebecca Brierley) was pure brilliance, and you could feel her enthusiasm for an adventure, but worry for getting home to her family. Her voice when singing was beautiful and really kept in character at all times, you could feel the love she had for her brothers Michael and John (played by the Green Team Junior Ensemble). The Junior Ensemble were brilliant, their singing, dancing and acting cannot be criticised, with both my girls (9) declaring they want to go on stage next year!! So, thank you the Green Team for being inspirational.
For me, the standout performance was by Abigail Finley (playing both Mrs Darling and Marilyn), the love for entertaining could be seen from her eyes, her accents, her singing and acting were brilliant. She related well to other characters (even the wooden character of Captain Hook) and really made the audience stand up and notice her.
Asking my family their favourite parts:
Son (aged 6); “Nana the Dog, and when Peter and Wendy went home!”
Daughters’ (aged 9); “All of it, there was too many good parts to pick out just one, but we did like the effects and surprises.”
Husband; “Seeing the children laughing so much and Auntie Hilda, as well as Ben (the unlucky audience star).”
Overall, I give this 4.5 out of 5, and would recommend young and old to go and watch it, have a laugh and reconnect with your childhood.
Tickets cost from £13.50 to £33.50 (booking fees may apply).
Peter Pan is at Derby Theatre from 7 December 2019 to 4 January 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit www.derbyarena.co.uk or call the box office on 01332 640011.
Derby Arena, Royal Way, Pride Park, Derby, DE24 8JB | 01332 640011