“a rainbow of lavish costumes and pitch-perfect comedy to brighten our dark pandemic winter” - Eluned Watson delivers the verdict on The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan, which opened at Theatre Severn in a blaze of colour this week.
A generous helping of fairy dust and an incredibly special cast sees Theatre Severn’s pantomime return with more magic than ever for 2021, writes Eluned Watson.
After two years of cancelled pantos, and with a 10th anniversary celebration, this year’s Theatre Severn pantomime feels more emotional, and more brilliant than ever. The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan really was an awfully big adventure.
Produced by Evolution and written by Paul Hendy, Theatre Severn’s panto is one where talent reigns. Whilst other shows opt for C-list names, at Shrewsbury, each and every cast member is a pro, and it shows.
The plot as an updated version for the 2020s, featuring a feistier Lizzie, the daughter of the original Wendy Darling. Not content to be rescued, Lizzie often leads the action (albeit with a child’s wooden sword, as panto dame Mrs Smee helpfully points out).
The legendary Brad Fitt – who celebrates a decade serving as dame and director – was as wonderful as ever. His acerbic wit and sharp improvisation ensured that there was always something to make everyone laugh, from young children to dragged-along Dads.
As, not-so-evil pirate sidekick Mrs Smee, Fitt’s victim for the evening was the sporting audience member ‘Alex’. Alex endured flirting and jokes at his expense, including being singled out to stand up and declare his belief in fairies. Beware chaps in the front rows, this could be you.
It was a slightly pared down cast of actors compared to previous years, but this did not mar the production in any way. If anything, it added to the feeling of being part of something extra special – a rainbow of lavish costumes and pitch-perfect comedy to brighten our dark pandemic winter.
Katy Dean showed off acting versatility as the elegant mother Wendy Darling, the brash Myrtle the Mermaid, and hilarious Ethel the Overacting Pirate (cue, lots of ‘Oo arr, me hearties’ and ‘shiver me timbers’).
Theatre Severn favourite leading lady Victoria McCabe (a previous Cinderella and Snow White), played Lizzie, daughter of Wendy, bringing a bit of 21st century female gumption to the story.
Peter Pan was classic lead boy, with charm, voice, flying and flips; diminutive Welsh actress Mille Davies was adorable as mischievous Tinkerbell; and Captain Hook (Philip Stewart) was deliciously evil, encouraging boos and laughter along the journey.
Former BBC Radio Shropshire presenter Eric Smith, who is notching up his 18th Shrewsbury pantomime, shows no sign of slowing down. Taking on eight roles, he entertained with nearly as many costume changes as the Dame herself. I don’t want to ruin it, but he took on secret agent, Time Lord, mermaid, moody teenager and break-dancing pooch (ok, maybe that wasn’t Eric!) with equal aplomb.
Fans of the Shrewsbury pantomime, will know that there are certain elements that have become annual obligatory favourites.
The wheelbarrow of puns, this year, is fruit and veg. Prepare to groan at lines such as ‘give peas a chance’. And a Shrewsbury panto would not be complete without the ‘ghost bench scene’ resulting in much hollering of ‘he’s behind you’, and the essential ‘we’ll have to do it again then, won’t we? Whoops!’ line. Most of the audience knew the script already, the predictability just adds to the delight.
Complete with special effects, high-wire flying, popular sing-a-long tunes, dance routines and a raft of corny jokes, Peter Pan is everything you could wish for in a panto.
The Theatre Severn pantomime is always guaranteed to make and my family laugh, but this year, it raised an emotional tear too. Thank you to Evolution Productions, the wonderful Brad Fitt, and your faultless team for returning for a 10th season to fly higher than ever.
- · The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan is on at Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury until Monday, January 3, 2022 – multiple daily performances (mornings, matinees & evenings) with a stagetext performance on December 20 at 2pm and a signed performance on December 20 at 6pm.
- · To book visit www.theatresevern.co.uk/shows/whatson/the-pantomime-adventures-of-peter-pan