Reviewed by Louise Watts
With Christmas just around the corner we have entered the season of pantomime! Panto has been running now for a very long time and it has become a traditional family Christmas event for lots of people. Many families all around the country will be heading to their local theatres to hear one of their favourite fairy tales brought to life with vibrant characters, silly jokes and popular songs adapted to fit the story being told.
Last night, I went with my family to the Orchard Theatre in Dartford, Kent to see the wonderful Peter Pan starring Steve McFadden (Phil Mitchell, EastEnders) as the baddie Captain Hook. Steve is no stranger to playing a bad boy so I didn’t think he would have any trouble carrying this off! Accompanying him as his sidekick Smee was Andy Ford who is a star in his own right in the world of pantomime.
The show started in the Darlings bedroom with the children and Peter Pan. The story began well and the audience were engaged straight away. The set was incredibly well designed; bright, crisp and sparkly! The various scenes all had the most incredible scenery and at times I wondered how they fit so many beautiful sets on the stage at the same time!
The show had everything you would expect – quick one liners’ from Smee, funny jokes, fantastic music and amazing choreography and costumes. Sadly, for me tonight what was missing was a pantomime Dame, ad libs and unrehearsed humour which is normally found in pantomime.
A huge congratulations to the lighting crew for delivering an incredible display tonight. The colours, brightness and the general effect given by the way the lights were used added a huge amount of atmosphere and effect to the production.
Steve McFadden played a fantastic Captain Hook and I particularly enjoyed his Taylor Swift dance. I can honestly say, I never thought I would see hard man Phil Mitchell shaking his hips to Taylor Swift!!! The memory will stay with me for a long time to come. However, I have to say, he is far scarier as Phil than he was as Captain Hook.
Joe Sleight played the forever young Peter Pan. Flying through the air effortlessly and always landing with grace, he was brilliant. His relationship with the other characters was genuine and real and you really felt as though you were in Neverland with the Lost Boys, Wendy, John and Michael. Tinkerbell (played by Isobel Hathaway) was just beautiful. Gracefully coasting round the stage on roller-skates, she was the perfect fairy. I for one believe in fairies.
The running time was approximately 2 hours 15 minutes. Sadly, just before the second half started there was an emergency in the auditorium and the audience were evacuated so that the emergency services could deal with the issue. The staff were very helpful in this situation and whilst we were not told of the reason for the evacuation, the audience seemed relaxed and content that it was being dealt with and there were no signs of any tempers flaying. As soon as the emergency services had completed their role, we were allowed back in and the show recommenced. Hats off to the team at the Orchard Theatre for the way they managed the situation.
The theatre had all the bars open and food was being served in the restaurant. The staff are always friendly and keen to help wherever they can. Parking is easy and cheap in the multi storey car park right next to the theatre.
All in all, we had an enjoyable evening and the cast should be very proud of themselves. For me however, there was something lacking tonight which I cannot quite put my finger on. I asked my children what they thought and they all independently said there was no Dame… food for thought?
Tickets cost from £20 to £39 (booking fees may apply).
Peter Pan is at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford, Kent from 14 December 2019 to 5 January 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit orchardtheatre.co.uk or call the box office on 01322 220000.
The Orchard Theatre, Home Gardens, Dartford, DA1 1ED | 01322 220000