|Image Source: Epstein Theatre|
Date: December 11 2017
Location: Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
The Epstein panto is as much an annual Christmas tradition as mince pies, work parties and the visit of the Coca-Cola truck which the usual doom-and-gloomers have been inexplicably trying to block. The formula is slightly switched up this year in a few ways, which combined with the usual big laughs and occasionally mature levels of humour (which the younger kids thankfully don't cotton onto), ensures that Peter Pan is another great festive offering.
Yes, Peter Pan; not traditionally a story which is brought to life in pantomime form, but one which perfectly adapts to the setting when performed by this experienced and talented crew. Here, Lewis Pryor takes up the title role, and quickly catches the eye of Wendy (Joanne Harper) as they travel to Neverland with a little help from Tinkerbell (Claire Simmo).
However, there are dangers ahead, not least Captain Hook (Dane Bowers), who wants to have Peter Pan killed for his own personal rewards, and is willing to go to another level (sorry) to do it. He has assistance from the daft Smee (Chris Barton) and the even dafter Dame Betty (Michael Chapman), but resistance from Tiger Lily (Georgia Austin) and the magic of Neverland ensures that the battle goes down to the wire, with Peter Pan not only needing to survive the dastardly Hook, but also slowly becoming attracted to Wendy. Will there be true love, and will Hook's evil plot be taken down?
Everyone performs to a high standard, as is the norm for the Epstein pantos. Several children were drafted into the cast as The Lost Children, and several kids had some hilarious lines, with one or two having that talent of making people laugh through simple facial expressions and mannerisms. As is often the case, there were plenty of jokes about local people and situations (the idea of a "drawn-out and depressing" situation for Peter Pan was initially assumed by Smee to be describing an Everton game), and the settings were very well-crafted in an attempt to create the most authentic Neverland backdrops possible. Top it off with some cool visual effects (such as characters flying and pyrotechnics), plenty of dance routines (though some of the dancers appeared to wish that they were somewhere else), colourful costumes, and some clever in-jokes (at one point there appeared to be production issues, only for it to be the set-up for one of the show's funnier planned scenes), and you have a really enjoyable panto experience for all the family.
Not for the first time, though, it's Michael Chapman as Dame Betty who steals the show with loads of great one-liners. The tone was set very early on with some near-the-knuckle jokes relating to certain well-known faces on television, and they continued throughout the show. At times, "risqué" would have been a generous way to describe such lines as her true name being "Betty Swallocks" and her somewhat intimate suggestion for Hook to pop around her house. Many of the attendees were in uproar laughing at Betty's remarks, and there's no doubt that her character is the one that people will most remember when seeing the show. The audience themselves contributed at times (one youngster hilariously shouted "Lewis!" to Peter Pan when he was in danger), though some attendees unfortunately tried to take over the entire show at one point, which is never a good thing. Otherwise, though, this was a lot of fun.
I would heartily recommend that you bring the family along to see Peter Pan at the Epstein over Christmas. You'll have a great time, and everyone will be feeling truly Christmassy when all is said and done. Just be prepared for some potentially awkward questions from the little 'uns afterwards!
Overall Rating: 9/10 - Outstanding