Fairfield Halls, Croydon – until 31 December 2022
Peter Pan flies into Fairfield Halls this Christmas with a brand new adventure for all the family. The Further Adventures of Peter Pan: The Return of Captain Hook features a star-studded cast led by EastEnders bad boy Ricky Champ as Neverland’s very own baddie, Captain Hook. Mummy and Quaver took the second star to the right and headed straight on until Croydon for our first panto of the season this Sunday. Oh yes we did.
Presented by UK Productions and BH Live, The Further Adventures of Peter Pan: The Return of Captain Hook sees Peter (David Ribi) and Tink (Gemma Hunt) take on a familiar foe, with a little help from Wendy Darling’s great granddaughter, Emily (Ohaana Greaves). With Hook long gone, Smee (Mark Rhodes) has swapped the pirate life for tourism, running Neverland pleasure cruises on the Jolly Roger. But it turns out that Hook didn’t actually become crocodile dinner all those years ago, and now he’s back and ready for revenge. Hook soon stages a mutiny and retakes control of his ship, before seeking out his youthful nemesis once more.
It’s good fun, with plenty of traditional panto moments (although refreshingly no dragged up Dame, which admittedly might be a negative point for panto purists). Jon Monie’s script contains a satisfying number of terrible jokes, and it’s nice to have a fresh plot (albeit based on a timeless classic) rather than another rehash of the same old story.
Highlights include the traditional ghost bench scene and an entertaining routine using a classic school gymnastics horse. After the last couple of years, it’s also really nice to see the cast being able to bring children back up onto the stage to join in the fun. It’s also lovely to see local children get the chance to perform in the panto, with groups from TEAM Dance Academy and Bright Sparks Performers Theatre & Dance Academy rotating at each performance. The script rather underestimates them though, and it would be nice to give these talented youngsters a little more to say.
Champ’s Hook strikes a nice balance between camp and menacing, while Ribi makes an impressive Pan, with a strong singing voice and some fab flying skills. He and Greaves both get whisked around on wires, with a final flight scene over London making some great use of projections (by Jon Port for Groundhouse Media). CBBC and Crackerjack’s Rhodes is the standout performer as Smee, showing off his credentials as a children’s entertainer and panto pro. Greaves feels a little under-used, as does Emma Jay Thomas in her twin roles as Mrs Darling and Ethel Mermaid (which must, however, be a contender for best named panto character this season!). Hunt has a meatier role as Tinkerbell but still doesn’t really get as much of the limelight as the male leads.
It’s not the flashiest panto you’ll come across this year but it’s full of fun and has (almost) all the elements that you might be looking for in a panto, including pop music parodies and some nice topical jokes. A reference to Liz Truss falls a little flat on the basis that presumably everyone has already forgotten who she is, but a (presumably hastily rewritten) Harry Kane reference went down very well on Sunday afternoon! Children get plenty of chances to shout out the classic panto refrains – Quaver was still happily shouting “oh no it isn’t” to herself when she got home.
Overall, The Further Adventures of Peter Pan: The Return of Captain Hook is an enjoyable trip to Neverland which offers something for the whole family.
*Ok not quite, since we didn’t have any pixie dust, but we did catch a Croydon tram for the first time, .
The Further Adventures of Peter Pan: The Return of Captain Hook plays at Fairfield Halls, Croydon from 10 to 31 December 2022. We received complimentary press tickets to the matinee on Sunday 11 December.