REVIEW: Peter Pan, Playhouse Whitley Bay until January 5

The cast of this year's panto, Peter Pan at Whitley Bay Playhouse, including Mark Little as Captain Hook, Steve Walls as Smee and Oliver 'Blake as John Darling.  GM022132

The cast of this year's panto, Peter Pan at Whitley Bay Playhouse, including Mark Little as Captain Hook, Steve Walls as Smee and Oliver 'Blake as John Darling. GM022132

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WITH all the charm and sophistication as a bout of scurvy, Mark Little’s Captain Hook takes no prisoners in this panto version of Peter Pan.

He doesn’t so much chew the scenery as rip it limb from limb before spitting it back out at the audience to a hail of jeers.

“I’m only here for the boos,” he declared early doors, and they came aplenty.

Every good panto needs a good villain and this one is up there with the best, and a far cry from the gentle Joe Mangel we remember from Little’s time in the Aussie soap Neighbours.

But while Mark Little gets star billing at this year’s Playhouse Whitley Bay performance, it’s panto stalwart Steve Walls as Smee who knits the whole production together.

The North East funnyman is enjoying his fourth year at the Bay panto and has never looked so comfortable.

As Little drew the boos, so Walls milked the gags. And while the punchlines were telegraphed from some distance, they all hit the spot with the Whitley audience.

“I’ve got a nice bum, but it is getting old ... it’s got a crack in it.” If you want sophistication, get yourself to Northern Stage.

This is pantomime at its traditional best.

From the leading ‘man’ being a woman to screams of “he’s behind you,” Peter Pan is old panto gold.

Chirpy Sarah-Jane Honeywell of CBeebies fame is ideal as the boy who never grew up, leaping about the stage with thigh-slapping gusto.

The Lost Boys and the Darling children, like the supporting dancers, were, for the most part, North East born and bred and clearly loving every moment of their night in the limelight.

The song and dance routines were colourful and well-received with plenty of set changes and audience participation to keep the story moving quickly to its upbeat conclusion.

The big set piece stunt saw Peter Pan, Wendy and the Darling children flying across the Victorian London skyline, and mightily impressive it was too.

Heart-warming, fun and brimming with festive cheer … Peter Pan is a swashbuckling Christmas treat for all the family.

Richard Ord

(For tickets call 0844 248 1588 or log onto www.playhousewhitleybay.co.uk)