Cast: Tony Maudsley, Louis Emerick, Archie Williams-Lawton, John Evans, Georgie Ashford, Christina Hoey, Asa Elliott & Niki Evans
Review Date: December 10 2019
Performances: December 7 2019-December 29 2019
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Duration: 150 minutes (including interval)
Age Rating: 3+
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when the heroes and villains of panto land have a funny free-for-all in an on-stage ruckus that only panto knows how to do. At Liverpool’s Empire Theatre this year, we have the Peter Panto, or just Peter Pan if you don’t like my pun!
Peter Pan is a favourite tale of mine, with the Disney film being the perfect depiction of the book by J.M Barrie. If you’re not familiar with the story, Peter Pan tells the tale of a young boy who visits children by the shadows of the night, but lives in a world of never growing up, with his Lost Boys constantly dodging arch nemesis Captain Hook. Cue all sorts of colourful characters and comedic capers which take the simple premise and elevate it into a lengthy and highly entertaining story playing out in front of an enthusiastic audience covering all ages.
The best thing about the panto, for sure, is the set. There is an abundance of twinkling lights in a starry sky, with an enormous pirate ship that glides on-stage as it would do along the sea. The set and costumes perfectly capture that rich and luxurious look of Captain Hook with his velvet coat and his huge ship, plus there are giant clam shells for magical mermaids, and a hideaway hut for the Lost Boys. The ever-changing set is so detailed, bright and exciting that little ones will be sure to stay engaged with what is going on.
As far as the performers go, my favourite star on the stage was Archie Williams-Lawton as Michael, the youngest of the three children that Peter Pan sweeps from their bedroom. Williams-Lawton is adorable as Michael; the wonder and excitement he exuded when he was on the stage flowed so naturally that I am certain it was just pure youthful innocence and amusement. I am not sure if it was on purpose, but his oversized pyjamas added an extra element of “cute baby of the family” to this character.
Louis Emerick is the ultimate panto baddie: he carried himself with the puffed chest and angry swagger we love to hate about the villain of the story. I’d like to say it was sad to see his watery demise at the jaws of a crazy crocodile, but the animal brought to life the way it is on the stage is nothing short of amazing. When the crocodile arrives on stage, his jaw wasn’t the only one to drop.
Tony Maudsley as Cutlass Kenneth – the “panto dame” of this show – is funny and wacky, particularly during his dalliances with John Evans’ Smee character. All of the cast perfectly depicted their characters, from a cute sing-song by Cristina Hoey (who played Wendy), or an angry stomp by jealous Tinkerbell (played by Georgie Ashford). Particular praise must be directed to the ensemble too; for me, the backing dancers and supporting cast bring the show to life. They are so lively and full of character and energy, the panto theatrics wouldn’t be the same without their tireless animations.
For me, the adaption of the story for the purpose of panto turns the whole thing into a bit of a joke (is that just to be expected of panto though?). That being said, the jokes along the way are a great mix of those suitable to little and big ears, as adults and children alike can thoroughly enjoy the chaos of this show. It felt a shame to me, though, that for this time of year, the panto omitted references to Christmas, since it is usually included along the way in the story at points, so I missed that.
Based on the chaos, the giggles, the scraps, the jolly jokes and the sparkling scenery, Peter Pan is a perfect panto that families of all ages can enjoy.
Target Audience: Ages 5-12
Content: 0/5 – No Content Likely To Offend
Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent
Peter Pan runs at the Empire Theatre until Sunday December 29. To buy tickets, click here or call 0844 871 3017.
For further articles from Amy Taplin, check out her blog Alchemy By Amy by clicking here.