Daryn Crosbie's Peter Pan kicked off Christmas panto season at the Gaiety theatre last night. The fact that it is Peter Pan was of course largely irrelevant to the packed theatre but less irrelevant was the fact that it was a hugely enjoyable evening and an absolute triumph.
The story of Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie is well known and that's probably just as well as this panto is not long on plot. The main details of the boy who wouldn't grow up, his love interest Wendy and the evil Captain Hook bent on destruction are all still there, while pirates, Picaninnies, Lost Boys and Indians abound. Johnny Ward (who you'll know as Pauley from Love/Hate) brings great energy and some of the original self-importance of Peter, and unearthed an egotistical side to the character.
Tinkerbell, played by Sarah Bradley, speaks fluent teenager and is all LOLZ, selfies and social media while Amy O'Dwyer does an admirable job with the most stilted of characters in the straight-laced Wendy. However, special mentions must go here to Joe Conlon who brings the house down with a stellar effort as Dame Nana - the Dub with a heart of gold, and Nicholas Grennell's perfectly wonderful over-the-top Captain Hook is undoubtedly inspired by the genius of Terry Thomas (anyone born post-1965 can ignore that reference). The supporting cast, the dancers and the kids all did a great job, conveying their enthusiasm and their sense of sheer fun to the crowd.
There's plenty for the adults to enjoy too, as every local social, musical and political reference possible was crammed into the two hours. Most elements of the staging and special effects worked superbly including the video concept as Peter and Wendy fly over the cities and off to Neverland.
In a world of Minecraft and Super Mario Bros it's a joy to see so many kids get so much out of a very elemental art form performed and staged at its professional best. If Shakespeare had been in row H last night he would have got it, stood and applauded. This reviewer wouldn't be your usual panto fan, but I enjoyed it immensely. It could be the best €20 you'll spend on any kind of fun this Christmas; as pure entertainment and fun it delivers in spades. Don't miss it!