All the stops have been pulled out for this year’s pantomime in Richmond. There’s fire dancing, lots of flying, bursts of mega-confetti and The Fonz from ‘Happy Days’ (aka actor Henry Winkler) in a wig.
From the garishly-coloured, unsubtle cardboard backdrops, to Tiger Lily’s ‘one for the dads’ low cut Indian costume, this is a Christmas show with a vast amount of sparkle. It’s a pity, then, that for all its bells and whistles, ‘Peter Pan’ has as much heart as Scrooge on tax deadline day.
JM Barrie’s poignant 1904 play about lost boys, motherly little girls and fantastic adventures is a staple of panto season. Songs by Katy Perry, Guns N’ Roses and Madness sit somewhat awkwardly next to the piece’s wholesome, earnest magic, and the plot’s larger than life characters – pirates, fairies, flying boys, Indian chiefs – are milked for all their comedy value in Eric Potts’s adaptation.
But, in Ian McFarlane’s production, we’re not made to love any of these characters. Even Dermot Canavan’s Smee, the pirate who doesn’t really want to be a pirate, feels like someone put there just to get the audience shouting.
Winkler as Captain Hook – a panto character he’s revisiting – is an old pro, reeling out the script’s almost suffocating ‘X Factor’ references with a nifty smile and a wink. But though his performance is perfectly respectable, it lacks spark – much like the show itself.
Richmond’s 2013 panto is a cynical lesson in big budget predictability. The necessary elements are present (audience interaction, dancing, singing, comedy double takes) but they appear with such clockwork regularity that by the end, the show feels like it’s covering tired, well-trodden ground.
By Daisy Bowie-Sell
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