Pantomime has been a British tradition for about 200 years and in many ways, despite some avid theatre goers ‘rolling their eyes’ at such a genre, ‘panto’ remains incredibly popular. This Christmas, the Regent Theatre welcomes the magical ‘Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan’ to a very excited Stoke- on -Trent audience.
Directed by cast members Jonathan Wilkes and Kai Owen and produced by ‘Crossroads Pantomimes’, ‘The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan’ is essentially a story of enabling Peter Pan to fly again and involves another trip to the magical ‘Neverland’.
Stoke-on-Trent’s very own Jonathan Wilkes plays the part of ‘Smee’. This man sure loves a Panto and its clear he loves his hometown of Stoke just as much. Having performed panto for over a decade Wilkes clearly has it running through his blood. With Wilkes true love being that of musical theatre, he has had much success in roles such as ‘Frank-N- Furter’ in the ‘Rocky Horror Show’ and ‘Billy Flynn’ in ‘Chicago’ to name but two of many. His role as ‘Smee’ was central to this production, and he consistently commanded the stage whilst being generous in his lines to other performers. Cheeky, charismatic, and very camp he played the role to perfection. A natural performer, Wilkes would appear to be much loved in Stoke-on- Trent and the audience were as delighted to see him on stage as he was to be there.
Born and bred in North Wales, Kai Owen delivered the performance of the night as ‘Captain Hook’. With numerous theatre credits to his name and a previous role as ‘Rhys’ in the TV series ‘Torchwood’ it is clear Owen is well able to handle the part of portraying a pantomime ‘baddy’. With scenes where his wig (ether intentionally or accidentally) fell off several times and his scene as a mermaid with Wilkes in Act 2, he was hilarious to watch. His relationship on stage with Wilkes was clearly very strong and they ‘bounced’ off each other throughout, delivering much amusement to the audience.
Amanda Coutts as ‘Tinks’ was a great addition to the performance- roller-skating, dancing and singing, she had it all. With her powerful vocals she had a natural stage presence about her. Rory Sutherland played the part of ‘Peter Pan’ and would seem to be an actor to watch out for in the future. With his crystal-clear vocals, a confident stage presence and engagement with the entire cast he was a natural. Equally, Hannah Everest’s role as ‘Wendy Darling’ was a well-oiled performance. For someone who had recently graduated from studying musical theatre she should be applauded for her performance.
It would also be remiss not to mention the fabulous ensemble who were formed from the very confident students and graduates from Wilkes Academy of Performing Arts- hard to believe they had not been treading the boards for many years.
This performance has it all really- from wonderful slapstick humour and dance to huge characters on stage and ticks all the correct boxes of a good old-fashioned panto. It delivers the essential theme of ‘good versus evil’ with much booing from the audience at ‘Captain Hook’. The ‘in’ jokes that are specifically for the wonderful people of Stoke-on Trent were received with the good humour they were delivered. Wilkes commented on local pubs and restaurants and made much reference to the two main football teams in Stoke. The audience were in hysterics throughout. The pantomime catered well for all ages in that adult jokes were delivered well with much ‘double entendre’. Slapstick humour, very characteristic of a traditional pantomime was delivered in abundance for the younger members of the audience. The audience participation was great fun- involving Wilkes and Owen shooting water pistols amongst a surprised audience (some given a thorough soaking!) and the throwing and catching of a ring of toilet rolls (you had to be there!).
Barry Smith must be applauded for fantastic lighting throughout – key to this production in the way it highlighted areas of the ‘Neverland’ set. Aaron Nice must also be congratulated for flawless musical direction.
In the current climate, as we approach the end of a challenging 2022 there has never been such a need to laugh with friends and family. This Pantomime will ensure that an audience of any age can do this and thoroughly deserved its standing ovation. With most people still chuckling as they left the theatre, it is a wonderful way to end 2022 on a high!
‘The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan’ is on at the Regent Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent until 31st December and tickets can be purchased online via www.atgtickets.com/stoke or via the box office at The Regent (telephone 0844 871 7615).
Reviewer: Angela Kelly
Reviewed: 9th December 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★