IT’S oooo-arrrrrh and shiver me timbers when Paul Nicholas dons the cavalier curls and prosthetic hand of Captain Hook, the arch- baddie of Bath’s Christmas pantomime – and the children love it.
Of course it all happens as the heroic Peter flies high in the sky over the stage, ready to take the Darling children on the adventure of their lives. JM Barrie’s immortal tale of the boy who wouldn’t grow up, still raking in funds for Great Ormond Street Hospital, has been adapted as a pantomime many times. The important thing is not to lose the story in among the participatory traditions, and Julian Lane’s Bath version avoids those temptations.
Bath Theatre Royal, with its gilded boxes and sparkling chandelier, is always special at Christmas, with the added magic of excited children accessorised for a night out. And Peter Pan, which is all about dreams and belief is the perfect show.
Tim Edwards is a dashing, bragging, athletic Peter, with Jenny Huxley-Golden a warmly serious Wendy. Her brothers Mike and John, as well as the Lost Boys, are played by students at Bath’s Dorothy Coleborn School of Dance. On the night I saw it, Cameron Tew O’Mara and the scene-stealing Oliver Prutton as the two younger Darlings had the audience enraptured.
Rachel Grundy finds just the right level of jealousy as Tink, this time extra spectacular on roller-skates – it’s great to have a real person as the feisty fairy not a little laser-light that dances around the stage – and this Tinkerbelle had a believable relationship with Peter.
The multi-talented television favourite Rebecca Wheatley joins the cast as Mrs Darling and a singing mermaid. And the pirate crew is again made up by the acrobatic Nitwits – watch out for their hilarious routine with Smee.
Having Mr Darling also play Hook is an established practice and Paul Nicholas does it with aplomb, his beautiful speaking voice adding to Hook’s wicked appeal, and just wistful enough to underline Mr D’s anguish and regret at the time he didn’t spend with his children.
The local audience always looks forward to the appearance of the rubber-faced and rolling-eyed Jon Monie, who this year makes his 1,000th appearance in panto at the Bath theatre. As Smee, a role he last played in 2014 with Chris Harris, he’s as hilariously appealing as ever, delivering topical lines and fresh routines with his signature self-deprecating charm, and returning to old favorites with perfect timing.
The choice of songs is a bit strange (a big love song for Peter and Wendy really isn’t needed) but there’s plenty of audience participation – listen out for a clever bit of word-play from Captain Hook! – and chances to join in, cheer the hero, hiss the villain, and duck away from those pesky water pistols – or was it cannons?
Peter Pan is on in Bath until 13th January, and is a delight for all the family.
Photographs by Freia Turland.