THERE’s a swashbuckling atmosphere in Poole’s Lighthouse arts centre with pirates galore as the theatre welcomes excited hordes of boys and girls and their parents for the Christmas show, Peter Pan, on until 3rd January.
While Chris Ellison is roaring his worst as Captain Hook on the stage, brandishing his hook or scuttling away from the crocodile, there is a host of Captain Jack Sparrow lookalikes in the auditorium strutting their stuff in thigh-high boots, frilly shirts, tricorn hats and swirling frock coats.
It all makes for a jolly piratical brew, and with the ebullient Jamie Quinn as a cocky, endearing Boy Who Never Grew Up, the good ship Peter Pan is all set for a successful voyage to Neverland and back.
This is a new musical version of the JM Barrie classic tale – directed by the very experienced opera director Jeff Clarke (of Opera della Luna fame) who has also written the clever lyrics for the new songs. It has some of his trademark flair with vivid characterisations, imaginative scene-setting (notably the mermaid lagoon) and high camp humour, particularly with the cowardly pirates in the climactic scene on the Jolly Roger.
But at the early stage of the run when I saw it, there was a surprising lack of energy between the stage and the auditorium – other than with Jamie Quinn, who works his socks off and is disarming and delightful as Peter.
It’s not a pantomime, and if the audience was looking for lots of opportunities to boo or shout “It’s behind you” or “Oh, no it isn’t” they are in for some disappointment. It is not that sort of show.
This adaptation tells the story very well, from the delightful opening scene in the Darling family nursery through all the familiar adventures to the touching finale back in the nursery.
The sets are lovely and the lighting is superb– particularly the dancing Fairy Tinkerbell light which roves around the theatre audience and even cosies up to some men in the audience.
The crocodile (Conor Poulton) looks perfect and moves with a sinister smoothness and the quartet of mermaids are true sirens of the sea, waving their opalescent tails to lure the unwitting to a watery grave.
There are some fine performances, notably from Naomi Morris as a very motherly Wendy (this is not a feminist-influenced show!), and Graeme Henderson, Neil Smye and Matt Cremin as Gentleman Starkey, Smee and Cecco. And the children (in two teams) are all splendid as the young Darlings and the Lost Boys.
But it’s Jamie Quinn’s night – he has the energy of a rubber ball, he flies through the air, tumbling and dancing as if weightless, he wields his cutlass with bravado and he establishes that essential rapport with the audience.