Salute a slapstick survivor
WELL done! Hurray! Believe it or not, I have found a pantomime that is not afraid of resurrecting the seemingly lost art of slapstick.
It's a cake-making episode and it doesn't last very long – but it's long enough for Smee the Bosun (Andy Bunn) to have half a dozen eggs cracked on his gleaming and uncomplaining pate.
And these are not the only encouraging moments that have been dreamed up by writer-director-choreographer Jane Bennett – who hides with unnecessary coyness behind the programme nom-de-plume of Ida Rathernotav.
This is a Peter Panto that brims with charm and fun. It has a company that is young, lively and talented – with a singing voice of particular distinction provided by Tinkerbell, courtesy of the brisk and businesslike Gabrielle Sabel – accurately described in the course of the action as a feisty fairy.
It is also a show that takes advantage of the flying facilities offered by The Rose – and even has a Peter-and-Wendy airborne duet. Moreover, the company comes off the stage and uses water pistols to good effect – twice. In other words, everybody gets to feel involved.
On the other hand, the players themselves sometimes got too involved on the first night. Anyone sitting towards the end of a row, stage left, was able at various moments to see Tinkerbell, Wendy and the Crocodile waiting in the wings, stage right.
And who's to say that the patrons at the other end of a row could not contemplate a sign of things to come on the other side of the stage? It's a small point, but it needlessly knocks a bit of shine off a splendid production, which is a shame.
This is a company packed with enthusiasm. Scott Denton's Dame – Leopard Spot Rose, no less – sails galleon-like through the action, in which Michael Neri (Heluff) comes with camp confidence to his responsibilities as resident funnyman, and Andy Bunn is clearly unafraid to cut a crisis in the bud.
Here was a first-night Bosun prepared to announce three times that it was time to bake a cake – and who eventually prompted the music for which he had been waiting.
I found it impossible to decide from the programme pictures whether Tiger Lily was Holly Gittins or Lauren Mobley beneath those long black wig tresses – but whoever it was, she came through with a breezy self-assurance.
Sam Wall is similarly confident as Peter Pan, in a pleasing pairing with Sadie Owen's Wendy, and Darren Richards offers a Captain Hook who is refreshingly different from the norm, in that he has a pleasant smile that at times threatens to be surprisingly cherubic.
There are pleasing dance routines, one of them on an Indian reservation, there is an attractive under-the-sea sequence that includes two five-foot-long fish, and Grace Woodward summons up her animal instincts on behalf of the Crocodile and Nana, the dog of the Darling household.
There is also an unseen Narrator, whom we don't
get to see, listed as Jackie Nory. I don't believe it, but it's a
delightful thought. To 07-01-12.