Dancing crocodiles, a giant smoke-firing sea devil kraken, acrobats, colourful costumes and scenery along with jokes old and new can mean only one thing – pantomime is back in Darlo. The title of this new production running at Darlington Hippodrome is apt – the plot has moved on from the original Peter Pan story; Captain Hook has escaped from being a prisoner of the crocodile and is now a reformed character – or so the audience was led to believe until we discover that he is now out for revenge.
Peter Pan can no longer fly, though the answer to getting back his wings might lay in the Pixie Dust Waterfall. Trying to produce a sequel to a popular story such as Peter Pan comes with risks however Alan McHugh’s storyline worked superbly with a natural progression that flowed with ease.
Are they allowed to do this? Oh yes they can! This is pantomime and there are no rules.
Christopher Biggins first started his panto Dame career in Darlington over forty five years ago – a fact that was celebrated as Biggins arrived on stage encased in a birthday cake with the number 46 on it. As he stepped out and gave a big “Hello Darlington” it felt like he was pleased to be back on the stage where it all started. His warmth and respect could be felt even when sat at the back of the stalls.
The chemistry between Rikki Jay (Smee) and Biggins worked like clockwork, not surprisingly this is the fourth pantomime that they have worked together. Jay had some of the best one-liners you will hear all Christmas “I’m going to a big party again this Christmas- held at No 10 Downing Street” he joked even slipping in more topical jokes that included Matt Hancock!
Steve Arnott as Captain Hook brought the character to life with complete ease as a loveable rogue with a touch of vulnerability. He was evident in the majority of scenes in a role you could imagine someone like Alice Cooper playing!
Local lad Peter Peverley as Starkey seemed to be under utilised, the impression being that he was only in the pantomime to give a local flair to the proceedings. His strong Geordie accent made you feel like you were indeed watching a pantomime in the North East.
James Hameed was youthful and innocent as Peter Pan – with good singing as demonstrated on the duet with Sheri Lineham (Wendy) on the Lizzo hit, About Damn Time, which had the lyrics slightly changed to fit in with the panto.
Tegan Bannister had the youngsters in the audience on the edge of their seats as she flew across the stage as Tinkerbell. Her charm and magic added to the show not forgetting too The Acromaniacs who excelled with a display of gymnastics that required split-second timing, I would not recommend doing any of these at home!
One of the biggest audience responses of the evening came from the slapstick routine that involved cleaning windows – proving that something so simple can still make people laugh.
It simply would not be Christmas without a good panto. Darlington has done it again – if you want to escape from all the bad news around at the moment, for two hours at least let the Darlo panto take you away to Neverland!
The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan
Runs until Saturday 31st December
Box Office: 01325 405405