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Friday, 6 December 2013

Review: Peter Pan at Blackpool Grand Theatre -

Excellent show - do go and see it!

Peter Pan was performed for the first time in 1904 but the play really is as ageless as it's title figure.
This is a really slick, fast-paced production with fantastic performances from every single member of the cast - starting with the first, very convincing, scene of Edwardian London with some beautiful dancing (choreography by Katie Hill) - right up to the emotional finish.

If you're looking for that Christmas 'feel good factor' this is the show for you.  It warms the cockles of your heart and keeps you happy even if you do have to go home in the cold afterwards.

The show, magnificently directed by Simon Rawlings, has been perfectly cast with Jordan Lee Davies a convincing Peter Pan the boy who would not grow up, Steve Royle as Smee one of Captain Hook's Pirates, Tom Lister, who dominated the stage with a superb performance as a scary Captain Hook, effortlessly becoming a debonair Mr Darling and Radio Wave's Hayley Kay as a warm, loving Mrs Darling and a gorgeous mermaid.   Great performances too from Samantha Gifford as Wendy, Lucy Johnson as a mischievous Tinker Bell and Nicola Avino as Liza the Darling's maid/Tiger Lilly.

The jokes (written by Andrew Ryan with some help from Steve Royle) are hilarious - you need your wits about you in case you miss some of the quips and double entendres - the poster is right when it says "A Panto awash with swash and buckle!"  And I love the repartees that are surely different every night as the cast interact with the audience.

There are also some great songs and a super band in the orchestra pit with Jon Chamberlain the show's  Musical Director on keyboards, Hannah Mitchell on Bass and Louis-Rae Bradshaw on drums/percussion. It was nice to hear Hayley sing - not only has she a lovely speaking voice as all her Radio Wave fans will know, but she also has a delightful singing voice as well.

There's a scene of very clever tumbling from The 'Nitwits', who formed Hook's Pirate Crew of the "Jolly Roger" and some amazing juggling from Steve Royle.  The dancers were from The Barbara Jackson Theatre Arts Centre and they didn't put a foot wrong in some quite complicated routines.   There was Nana the Dog, a rather realistic crocodile and the costumes were brilliant.  The bumper programme is also a treat - a real collector's item - full of information about the original play and details of the cast AND also pages of puzzles, games and a colouring page.

Something for everyone from young to old as befits a Christmas Panto and of course the setting itself is just magic - The Grand Theatre having been saved from extinction by a group of hard-working conservationists, many of whom still help out as Friends of the Grand Theatre during performances, selling programmes, service tea, coffee and mince pies in the cafe and clearing up afterwards.

This was the first time I had seen a performance of "Peter Pan" since reading "Peter Pan's XI The Extraordinary Story of J.M. Barrie's Cricket Team" (by Kevin Telfer, Sceptre, London, 2010) as part of my research for WW1 Commemorative Exhibitions.   It was very clear from watching last night's play that Barrie was Peter Pan. As Telfer  says: "Barrie himself later speculated that perhaps he was the real-life embodiment of Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up, as much as any real boy ..." (p. 17).  I feel certain that Barrie would love the production currently at Blackpool's Grand Theatre.

I could not help thinking how poignant to think that George Llewelyn Davies - one of the boys Barrie looked after following the death of their parents and for whom he devised the sort of adventures embodied in his play "Peter Pan" - was killed on The Western Front in World War One on 15th March 1915 and his brother, Peter who took part in the Battle of the Somme, was invalided home suffering from shell-shock, returned to the front and was awarded a Military Cross (MC).

During WW1, Barrie worked at the British Government's Propaganda Bureau with along with writers Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, E.V. Lucas, Thomas Hardy, G.K. Chesterton, H.G. Wells and John Buchan - Conan Doyle and Lucas having been members of Barrie's recreational Cricket Team.

Our thanks to everyone for a wonderful evening's entertainment from the production team to the cast through to the backroom boys and girls, without whom no show would be complete.

Peter Pan is at The Grand Theatre in Blackpool and runs until 5th January 2014

You can find out more about the show and how to book tickets here:

And hear our interviews with the cast members here:

Tom Lister:

Hayley Kay: