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Peter Pan. Louth Playgoers, Riverhead Theatre 07 January 2022

Updated: Apr 8, 2023

Peter Pan by J.M Barrie adapted by John Hewer

Louth Playgoers

Riverhead Theatre Louth

06 January 2022

This is a terrific pantomime, recommended for all the family to blow away those post-Christmas pandemic blues. Louth Playgoers presents Peter Pan written and directed by comedy maestro John Hewer, with musical direction by Christopher Peters. It was originally scheduled as the 2021 panto offering but for obvious reasons, had to be rescheduled. Hewer wrote, directed and performed in its small cast replacement, Mother Goose last year but is back bigger, brighter and better this year, adapting J.M. Barrie's classic.

It is everything you would want from a pantomime. We have plucky, determined heroes, dastardly villains, clownish sidekicks and adults who are less capable than their offspring. It has an enormous cast who are clearly delighted at the chance to be back performing for audiences despite the current health situation and both Hewer and his wife, professional puppeteer Jane Crawshaw, are ready to step in as cover should calamity hit the production providing cover for male and female roles.

We meet the Darling family, Mr and Mrs Darling (Ray Baker and Fiona Beasley) and their children Wendy, John and Michael (Katherine Briggs, Freya You and Archie Farr/Freddie Warwick). The parents double as the King and Queen of Neverland and provide much comic relief along the way as their offspring constantly prove more resourceful and quick-witted than the parents in both guises. Meanwhile, the children sing, dance, fly and fight their way through an awfully big adventure. Each has real character and Wendy performs a beautiful rendition of Crossing the Bridge in the second act, demonstrating Katherine Briggs' fantastic singing voice.

Instead of the traditional dog Nanna, we have this year's towering pantomime dame - Donna Nook - played with aplomb by Philip Marshall Junior, who delights in making risque jokes for the parents and playing to the kids as a traditional dame. She explodes onto the stage to the strains of Living La Vida Loca and shakes her maracas with gay abandon whilst strutting among the Studio 2000 Senior Dancers, who give wonderful, lively performances throughout the show adding movement, glitz and glamour to each song they perform.

Peter Pan is played by Izzy Bunten, as a fiercely defiant boy who refused to grow up. He is tough, dynamic and resilient. Izzy gives him a cocksure confidence and has a great singing voice to match. Peter persuades the children to visit Neverland and leads the battle against the pirates as a dashing hero. The Darlings and the Lost Boys would follow Peter into any scrape and frequently do.

Peter's faithful companion and best friend is the beloved fairy Tinker Bell, accompanied this time by her own companion, Little Bell, a puppet that playfully dashes around each scene and brings a different kind of fairy charm to proceedings. Felicity has a terrific singing voice too and her performance of Pure Imagination is magical. She is the perfect panto fairy, last seen as the Spirit of the Ring in Alladdin

This year's villain of the piece is the all-too familiar claw-handed, Captain Hook, played by Stuart Spendlow. Its a glorious performance allowing Stuart to chew the scenery mercilessly and to garner the boos from children eager to see him eaten by the crocodile. Spendlow struts arrogantly across the stage brandishing his weapon, thrusting it in the general direction of any who oppose his tyrannical will. He is perfect in the role and is the man you will love to hate.

His comic sidekicks are Mr Line and Mr Sinker, played by Jack Pudsey and Joel Howard who are wonderful. Children adore the silly antics of this pairing as doors smash into faces, planks knock each other down and general silliness sees them falling and falling, time and again. Both know how to sell the humour of this sapstick and it is never better illustrated than in the performance of Moonlight Becomes You, which will undoubtedly go down in theatre history as a show-stealing scene.

The aforementioned scene is performed with the assistance of Princess Tiger Lily played gloriously by Alice Murray. Tiger Lily is no shrinking violet, or damsel in distress. Instead she is a heroine for the twenty-first century. An all-singing, all-dancing, butt-kicking princess, who is able to stick up for herself and doesn't need rescuing Alice makes the Princess a highly appealing performance.

The Lost Boys, led by Laura Harris, are a wonderful gang of rough and tough indivduals ready to back up Peter as he takes on the might of the pirate ship and provide a fabulous mini-chorus. Each performer brings a little something of themselves to their role and demonstrates unique personailty in doing so. The boys are played by Eloise Hopkinson, Tzara Pudsey, Emily Corley, Xenca Watson and Rebbekah Hardy and are a joy to watch as they perform their piratical songs.

Without the sizeable chorus in this show, it would lack spectacle and every person on stage offers something to the show. The delight on the faces of performers, young and not quite as young, is real and a pleasure to behold as they bring their talent to the stage.

The set design is creative and demonstrates the high standard always shown at the Riverhead and the costume department really had their work cut out dressing so many individuals and creating a wardrobe fit for a very tall dame! I commend them all.

This colourful, silly and ultimately winning pantomime is a joy. If you are in need of cheering up get yourselves down to the RIverhead Theatre this week. There are 12 performances in total and tickets are still available form the theatre's box office or online. Details on the poster below. We thoroughly recommend it to all.

Andy Evans 07 January 2022

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