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The Further Adventures of Peter Pan… at the Fairfield Halls

Last year I was very critical about the Fairfield Halls panto as I didn’t think it was very good – in fact I thought it was very poor and said so in my 2* review. So it was with great trepidation that I set out to review this year’s offering The Further Adventures Of Peter Pan – The Return Of Captain Hook – even the long title seemed intimidating! Once again like last year it was in the Ashcroft Playhouse and not in the concert hall where it had been in 2019 so things weren’t looking too good. However, I was in for a big surprise as TFAOPPTROCH is one of the best pantos I’ve seen for a long, long time and apart from one criticism (more of that later) it was everything a panto should be and more.

David Ribi as 'Peter Pan' - credit Elliot Franks.
David Ribi as ‘Peter Pan’ – credit Elliot Franks.

Director Sarah Redmond and the team at UK Productions have brought the timeless story into the twenty-first century and when the show opens, we meet Emily Darling (the great, great-granddaughter of Wendy from J M Barrie’s book) and her mother, Mrs Darling before Tinker Bell arrives and whisks Emily off to Neverland to meet Peter Pan and the story unfolds. Whilst she’s there we also meet the evil Captain Hook, Mr Smee as well as pirates, fairies and even mermaids.

The problem with many pantos is that the often cobbled-together scripts usually feature the old familiar panto tropes, often crude jokes aimed at the parents and local references which often aren’t funny.

Well, Jon Monie’s tight script avoids most of those clichés and gives the story a modern spin. There are the usual set pieces – you can’t have a panto without them – but there are also 2022 references to smartphones, social media, and excess screen time all seamlessly incorporated into the narrative – and there is a distinct narrative for a change. There are jokes that the younger members of the audience appreciate and even some for their parents – in fact in Monie’s script there are some aimed at the even older members of the audience as there’s a mermaid called Ethel (think about it) and a routine based on Abbott and Costello’s (look them up) “Who’s On First” routine that dates back to the 1940s!

The various sets are first class – no wobbly cardboard scenery here as we segue between Pete’s lair to the mermaid’s lagoon – the Fishotheque – and then onto a superb pirate ship before ending up on the rooftops of London. Allied to the different scenes are some wonderful costumes (especially at the finale), and superb lighting and video projections – no expense spared in this production.

There are also a number of non-original songs such as “You’ll Be Back” (from “Hamilton”), “Crocodile Rock” (well it is Peter Pan), “Disco Inferno”, “Defying Gravity” (from “Wicked”), The Beatle’s “Octopus’s Garden” and “Ghostbusters” as well as many others. The lyrics have been changed to fit the story and they work perfectly without being trite or cheesy. There are the usual “It’s behind you” and “ghosts and ghoulies” set pieces along with some fantastic, gymnastic vaulting incorporating pratfalls and eye-watering stunts which keep the show moving at pace. There’s also proper flying from Peter, Emily and Hook which you don’t see a lot of these days.

There’s also a large cast that fills up the Ashcroft’s stage. As well as an ensemble of five who play various characters, there are the three Nitwit Pirate Crew and also ten children playing various parts including fairies so the stage is always full of action and movement.

As for the main characters, everyone is excellent and making the most of the characters they’re playing. David Ribi (Channel 5’s main children’s TV presenter) is wonderful as Peter giving him all the derring-do that the character needs. As his nemesis, the evil Captain Hook, Rickey Champ (from Eastenders) makes sure he’s booed and hissed every time he comes on stage. Gemma Hunt is delightful as Tinker Bell as is Ohaana Greaves as Emily and Emma Jay Thomas has a lot of fun as Mrs Darling and Ethel Mermaid. The real standout is TV presenter (Cracker jack etc) who drives the story along as well as engaging with the audience, doing stunts and singing superbly – his energy is infectious.

After all that praise, I have to mention the one criticism I have. In last year’s review, I wrote: The decibel level needs to be sorted out as children have sensitive hearing and the music and some of the singing was far too loud for a young audience and unfortunately this year it’s the same. At the start, there was some voiceover setting the scene and explain the story but it was impossible to hear as the sound was drowned out by the music and the same went for some voiceover from Fern Britton as the voice of Wendy which was unintelligible. This is a wonderful production let down a bit by the sound quality.

However, leaving the sound problem aside, this is a wonderful production – just what a panto should be. The audience was having a wonderful time plugging into the energy coming from the stage and lapping up every moment – this is a joyful show for everyone who loves panto – and who doesn’t when it’s done as we as The Further Adventures Of Peter Pan – The Return Of Captain Hook.

4 stars

Review by Alan Fitter

Join Peter, Smee, Tinker Bell, Emily and Ethel Mermaid on a brand-new swashbuckling adventure full of fun, laughter… and crocodiles!

After defeating the evil Captain Hook and his crew of prancing pirates, life has been pretty perfect for Peter Pan. But when a stranger arrives in Neverland, he is forced to question his past and face his future. Will Peter ever grow up?

And then there are the rumours…

That a certain someone survived the stormy seas and is seeking revenge! Have you heard them too? People are saying … that Hook is back!

So watch out… he might be behind you!

The Further Adventures of Peter Pan – The Return of Captain Hook
Fairfield Ashcroft Theatre
Sat 10 – Sat 31 Dec 2022
https://www.fairfield.co.uk/

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1 thought on “The Further Adventures of Peter Pan… at the Fairfield Halls”

  1. Thanks for this review, which appears to be a very positive and upbeat recommendation. After going to see this with my grandchildren, I agree that it is bright and lively. That’s said, we paid full price tickets in the circle. Here, we didn’t feel included in the merriment that was evident in the stalls. This was mainly because of the distance we were from the characters who totally focussed their antics and attention to those in the stalls. The sound system was another major problem. At times it was too loud and overbearing for my young ones. So much so, we had tears from one. It seemed all noise and we could not define what was said or sung at times. Unfortunately, due to distressed children, we had to leave half way. I would never recommend seats in the circle nor would I recommend this production of
    for children under five years.

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