Peter Pan pantomime is soaraway success - our review of Alnwick Playhouse's first show back

The all-new Alnwick Playhouse is up, up and away thanks to the kind of production which has formed the cornerstone of the popular venue’s ethos since its inception.

Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 10:33 am
Jimmy Dodds (Dame Sue Fulae) and Peter Lewis (Johnny) in Alnwick Theatre Club's 2020 panto, Peter Pan.

When Mr Bill Hugonin, the Duke of Northumberland’s agent and ‘father of the Playhouse’, had a dream of creating a ‘community arts centre’ in the 1980s this was exactly what he had in mind - a local show for local people and a showcase for local talent, rubbing shoulders with regional and national productions.

Pantomimes may not be everyone’s cup of tea but they appeal to all generations on so many different levels.

That was evident on Saturday afternoon when I attended the matinee, sadly without a five-year-old in tow!

The auditorium, looking resplendent (and feeling comfortable) after its amazing refit, was packed with all ages from sweetie-munching tots to enthusiastic grandparents.

JM Barrie’s Peter Pan, about the mischievous boy who can fly and never grows up, is one of the more familiar stories, given an Alnwick twist by panto stalwart Peter Lewis and his writing team.

They injected plenty of local satire, a hefty dose of innuendo, some wacky pirate-technics and an interwoven collection of song and dance.

The mixture of hilarious jokes, slapstick comedy, contrived rhymes and corny quips, coupled with the customary audience participation provided a staple panto diet.

And in true tradition, not everything went to script – but the forgotten lines, hesitations and wardrobe malfunctions only added to the hilarity.

The cast was led by the irrepressible Jimmy Dodds, whose panto dame rivalled any you’ll see up and down the land. His strong Northumbrian twang, brilliant comic timing and infectious sauciness, not to mention a splendid array of frocks and wigs, made his Dame Sue Fulae a soaring Playhouse favourite.

His version of Abba’s Fernando had to be seen to be believed – Neverland will never be the same again!

Jimmy was supported by some fine performances, none better than Helen Gee-Graham in the title role. Her energetic, thigh-slapping Pan was dynamic and assured, and her singing voice strong.

Helen’s splendid early rendition of Robbie Williams’ Let Me Entertain You really set the tone for an entertaining afternoon.

Engaging Oliver Pusey was booed to the rafters for all the right reasons as the wicked Captain Hook; while Peter Biggers and Philippa Mawer gelled neatly as Mr and Mrs Darling, and Eloise Barber was suitably floaty as fairy Tinkerbell.

Emily Deck and James Mawer did well as sister and brother, Wendy and Michael, but you had to suspend belief a touch to be convinced that Peter Lewis was the third sibling Johnny – was he the boy who grew up far too fast?

There were some great cameo performances by Archie Braid (Nana), Richard Glenn (Smee) and John Firth (Blind Poo), and narrator Claire Barber (Tiger Lily) held it all together.

The excellent stooges Gray Brown (Nicky Noo) and Andrew Kane (Nacky Noo) provided one of the best moments with their rendition of Queen’s I Want to Break Free.

The Alnwick Academy of Dance youngsters were polished as usual with a variety of styles in their super sets. And the kids and adults in the chorus and the Lost Boys provided great support.

By the final song, Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, we were all immersed and having such a good time, having a ball.

The first community show at the re-opened Playhouse had done its job – a massive welcome back!

CAST

Jimmy Dodds (Dame Sue Fulae), Helen Gee-Graham (Peter Pan), Oliver Pusey (Captain Hook), Emily Deck (Wendy), Peter Lewis (Johnny), James Mawer (Michael), Archie Braid (Nana), Eloise Barber (Tinkerbell), Peter Biggers (Mr Darling), Philippa Mawer (Mrs Darling), Claire Barber (Tiger Lily), Gary Brown (Nicky Noo), Andrew Kane (Nacky Noo), Richard Glenn (Smee), John Firth (Blind Poo), Peter Burrow (Gorilla/Crocodile). Lost Boys: Ruby Glenn (Slightly Soiled), Devon McEwan (Noodler), Finlay Allan (Tootles).

CHORUS

Christine Allcorn, Finlay Allan, Estie Belshaw, Peter Biggers, Archie Braid, Anya Campbell, Lola Campbell, Jill Clark, Betty Fentiman, Ruby Glenn, Elle Harvey, Francesca Inglis, Carol Lawrence, Ann Lewis, Philippa Mawer, Devon McEwan, Valerie McEwan.

ALNWICK ACADEMY OF DANCE

Grace Bell, Emily Breeze, Imogen Brown, Thomas Crosby, Lily Davies-Branch, Jen Davis, Morgan Duffy, Emilia Grimes, Sian Grimes, Carly Hope, Nuala Hutton, Scarlett Hutton, Isla Hutton-Stott, Maddison James, Millie Pentleton, Ailsa Powell, Holly Robinson, Amelia Stewart, Jemma Thew.