Peter Pan, The Capitol, Horsham, Friday, December 20.
Since his first stage appearance in 1904 Peter Pan has become an immensely popular character, conquering the worlds of film and literature and flying in for countless pantos across the country.
It’s safe to say that the performers at The Capitol have a lot to compete with in order to bring a memorable version of J.M. Barrie’s tale of pirates and lost boys to the Horsham stage.
Benjamin Pomeroy is a likeable Peter Pan, effectively conveying the boundless excitement and optimism of a boy who gets to stay young forever. The young man’s boyish looks and wiry frame certainly add to the effect as he flies swiftly across the stage and, in one excellent moment, above the heads of the audience.
Steven Arnold, best known for playing Ashley Peacock on Coronation Street, does a good job as the bumbling but likeable pirate Mr Smee. He fully embraces the panto spirit, performing the silliest lines and physical gags with real commitment.
However, the highlight of the show is James Dinsmore as Captain Hook, thoroughly deserving his boos and hisses for being so flamboyantly evil and funny at the same time. His sense of timing and verbal dexterity means that all his jokes have the desired effect. He even gets away with making a potentially terrible and very up-to-date joke about “bringing the house down”.
Dancing performances are generally very good with slick choreography and energetic performances. The pirate henchmen are especially skilled, offering some impressive displays of agility and athleticism as they twist and spin across the stage.
It’s not just the dancers who dazzle though. Amy Beadel (playing Wendy) and Amy Compton (Tiger Lily) both sing beautifully but it’s Sarah Barron as Mrs Darling and the Mermaid who makes the best impression with her mighty voice.
The song choices are surprisingly contemporary but add an undeniable energy and modern flourish to the production. Peter and the Darlings fly to Neverland while singing Rule The World by Take That and Tiger Lily and her companions dance around to Whenever, Wherever by Shakira. Even Robin Thicke’s controversial but ridiculously catchy hit Blurred Lines makes an appearance, albeit with changed lyrics to transform it into a harmless tune about the pirate life.
One traditional number does make an appearance – a reworked version of The Twelve Days Of Christmas. Comic chaos ensues as Captain Hook and his pirates scramble across the stage (while singing) to pick up the various props associated with the lyrics.
The creatures are brought to life with an amusingly low-tech charm. Nana – an actor in an oversized dog suit – looks hilariously stupid and gets cheers of approval from younger audience members. The crocodile – part puppet, part suited performer – gets a great response too, deserving more time on stage than it got.
It’s a shame that Tinkerbell remains a special effect throughout but this gives the rest of the cast more time to have fun with their characters.
And have fun they certainly do, cheered along by an audience of thoroughly entertained kids and adults.
Peter Pan is at Horsham’s Capitol until January 5.
By Lawrence Smith