Imagine Theatre Limited
Venue Cymru, Llandudno,
December 9-31, 2023; 1 hr 50 mins
Panto - do we stay with tradition or do we innovate? Imagine Theatres' production of Peter Pan at Venue Cymru certainly errs on the side of tradition, though misses some of the elements of the story in the name of fast-flowing panto – there's no Mrs Darling and no search for Peter's shadow, for example. Otherwise this is a faithful rendition of the story, and the cast and crew give a committed, engaging performance – notable since I was watching the third performance of the day, typical of the panto season before Christmas.
Centre-stage is John Evans as Smee, who has a good stand-up routine full of corny jokes and plenty of ad-libbed one-liners, poking fun mainly at the audience. James Lusted as Starkey has a higher profile than last year and doesn't disappoint, while Jason Marc-Williams (who also directs) gives a flamboyant rendition of Hook, alternating between villainous and helpless – the latter especially when on the receiving end of slapstick humour.
The supporting cast members, including Carley Stenson as Tinkerbell and Jon Clayton as Peter, are enthusiastic too, and well choreographed, and the sets are colourful and imaginative, ranging from bedroom to ship. There is plenty of audience participation, with appeals to the children to help the actors, which of course enthusiastic youngsters do, with lots of lung power. The panto appears to be aimed at everyone from eight and upwards – succeeds in its aim admirably.
Peter Pan could be criticised for a lack of theatrical innovation, but those who do miss the point – panto repeats itself year after year because it's familiar and immersive and a lot of fun. What's important is the quality of each performance, and here it's great.
Get along to Venue Cymru for timely Christmas entertainment - and I'm not referring to the tick-tock of the crocodile's clock...
More info and tickets here