- Published: 12 December 2013
I parked just 5 minutes from the Theatre Royal and St Helens seemed deserted, yet when we were inside it was buzzing. Very weird. The crowds of excited youngsters gathered in the foyer. Michelle Bates went along to review this year's panto, Peter Pan...
Despite the throng of young theatre goers there was organisation due to the "helpers" who were on hand to guide and advise visitors though the venue. I went downstairs to the Slipper Lounge to pick up my tickets and company manager Chantelle Nolan and marketing director Bill Elms were on hand to welcome people.
Panto has been known for bizarre gender bending roles, like a male actor playing the Dame (in this case Simon Foster who was wonderful as Tiger Lily's mum). Usually the principle boy is played by a female but today we saw this turned on its head and Peter Pan was played by the dashing Dancing With The Stars dancer Brian Fortuna who melted the hearts of Wendy (Leah Murphy), Tiger Lily (Charlie Griffiths) and Tinkabelle (Claire Simmo). Let’s hope we aren't taking a leap backwards and stereotyping the genders because that would be a sad break from tradition. I think their casting was more likely a very clever ruse by the director of ensuring bums on seats and it worked well, as Brian has a great deal of fans.
The theatre was illuminated by lights from swords and wands waved by the boys and girls. The story had not been altered too much and gave us lots of laughs. Richard De Vere was superb as Captain Hook, "Who's the baddie?!" was his opening line and he quickly engaged the audience asking "Are you two sisters? You’ve come to the wrong show" predictable but hysterical. Nick Cochrane was great as Smee and Captain Hook managed to get some jibes in about Corrie. There was also wonderful undersea party by the fabulous Black Star puppets.
It was a great show all round with a good old singalong at the end. It was a shame that after having such a great time in a lively little theatre that you go outside to empty streets. It would have been a treat to see the town centre with some other activities or events taking place. However we enjoyed it thoroughly and would encourage others to visit the theatre especially while Peter Pan is playing.
WORDS BY: Michelle Bates