captain hook

John Altman as Captain James Hook aboard the Jolly Roger with its skull figurehead.

Peter Pan

Wolverhampton Grand

*****

WHAT a swashbuckling corker of a panto the Grand have served up for Christmas. It’s funny, fast-paced and cracking entertainment which works for kids and parents . . . and grandparents alike.

It is bright and breezy, colourful – what a boon LED lights have been to theatres and especially panto – with plenty of pyrotechnics from explosions of flamepan, wendy, tinkerbell, michael and john to Catherine wheels and it even has a sports car which flies out over the audience with the Chuckle Brothers aboard.

It's a stage effect from The Twins FX which never fails to amaze youngsters – and their parents.

Peter Pan, played by Ross Carpenter, is suitable dashing as the boyish hero who is never going to grow up while Hannah Nicholas is a serious minded, no nonsense Wendy who falls for Peter much to the annoyance of Lucy Evans’ delightful Tinkerbell, who nobly dies nicely to save Peter when required.

Ross Carpenter as Peter Pan, Hannah Nicholas as Wendy, Archie Turner as Michael, Lucy Evans as Tinkerbell and James Shaw as John

Luckily the youngsters in the audience brought her noisily back to life. The tiny girl behind me could burst eardrums for a living when she grows up. I suppose if they get a quiet audience or one that doesn’t believe in fairies, they would just have to leave old Tinkerbell cluttering up the stage and work around her on an alternative ending. Not much danger of that though as the children are in there shouting and cheering with the slightest hint of encouragement.

Peter’s ally against the notoriously nasty Captain James Hook is Tiger Lily, played by Telford-born Kimmy Edwards, who is no stranger to the Grand, having toured there with Ghost. She leads the rough, tough Indians against the rough tough pirate hordes made up of the lively ensemble who bring their own energy to the show.

With Wendy, flying in from the Darling home are siblings John and Michael played by two pairs of youngsters who, on Press night, were played by James Shaw and Archie Turner with young Shaw particularly impressive and looking completely at home on stage as he delivered a difficult, complex speech of defiance to Hook.

Hook being played by John Altman, best known as Nasty Nick Cotton from East Enders. Perhaps his nastiness, and there was plenty of it, died with his character, because his Hook is, in truth, rather nice, a very tongue in cheek baddy, flamboyant bluster with a cheeky grin and a cheekier hook.

Leading the laughs are the Chuckle Brothers, Paul and Barry, who are a revelation. They have been regarded mainly as children’s entertainers, hilarious to anyone with an age in single figures but lost on their parents, but, away from kids’ TV they are gloriously funny, a real old-fashioned double act who reminded me of masters of the art, Abbott and Costello,

 with their daft routines and their clever word play.

The material is silly, simple, at least on the face of it, but so slick and meticulously timed it makes it infectiouthe chuckle brotherssly laugh out loud funny; and as proper Northerners they have no truck with this Health and Safety malarkey, happily flinging sweets, crisps, marshmallows and anything else they fancy into the audience, along with a dousing with a giant water pistol - reet gradely fun as the Chuckle brothers might have it.

To Smee, to you! Paul and Barry, the Chuckle Brothers, filling the night with laughs

 

And there is none of this messing about with bringing up a few tots at the end to be asked what they want for Christmas while the cast and set change for the grand finale. No siree, up are dragged three dads and a mum who, when they are asked to don bin-bag costumes, probably knew what was coming as they acted out Goldilocks and the Three Bears . . . and the custard pies. Simple, daft and very funny – at least for those who had avoided the call to fame and . . . custard and, let's be honest, kids love seeing adults taking one for the team!

There is a little gender equality creeping in with J M Barrie's Lost Boys of the 1911 original becoming the Lost Children of 2015 with two teams of youngsters from Willenhall's Classic Academy of Dance providing splendid victims for nasty Hook's dastardly plot.

With fine sets including a pirate ship sailing majestically on to stage and that spectacular flying car, Pan, Wendy and Tinkerbell flying around the stage, colourful costumes and lively music from the five man band under David Lane there is never a dull moment and time, like Pan, just flies by leaving some very excited and happy, and hoarse, children heading off home with smiling parents. And you can’t ask more than that. The next generation of theatre goers have been . . . hooked. Directed by David Burrows, Peter Pan flies on to 24-01-16.

Roger Clarke

15-12-15 

Wolverhampton has announced it's panto next year will be Aladdin

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