Hurrah! It’s panto season! One of the best parts of the festive season!
The Albany theatre in Coventry is in Panto Season at last!! The Ceridwen Theatre company, are run as a not for profit company, andthis is their third show at the Albany theatre . They have been creating new, collaborative theatre for over a decade.
I really enjoyed the fact that their was a strong family tie in this production, and I immediately spotted the similarities within the cast, and the actresses playing Peter and Wendy are sisters, and incidentally their brother, Lyon, adapted the text for the stage!
This is not an all singing all dancing, sparkling, high rolling affair like the Belgrade puts on every year, but it embraces the soul of British panto. There are sing-a-longs, men in women’s clothing, girls playing boys and a villain you can boo and hiss! It is perfect for little kids, and my daughter is off to see it in a schools matinee next week, so I am keen to see how she likes it!
It is a far cheaper way to go to a panto the other competing commercial venues such as the Belgrade and the hippodrome. At only £11 for adults and £9 for kids, it is much more affordable.
The Belgrade charges;
The Birmingham Hippodrome charges upto £99 per seat for its version of Peter Pan, but it offers a starstudded cast, acrobats, and spangles all over the place!
Granted that the Hippodrome and the Belgrade will put on spectacular shows, but we all tighten our purse strings in the run up to Christmas, the Albany gives a wholesome alternative to the commercial venues. Another thing to note was that the “merchandise stand” in the foyer was without whistles, sparkly flashy rubbish and costume that are all to common at most Pantos theses days. They had miniature treasure chests, and chocolate coins, and other cute little bits related to the show. also, the programme came with a colour in Peter Pan mask, an some activities for the kids, which I thought was a nice touch.
I have loved Panto from an early age, and was “Happy” in Snow White with the local Am-dram at the Age is seven. I performed all the way until I was 17 when I found that I loved stage management. At 19 I went to Rose Bruford, to do a degree in Stage Management, and had a career in London where I worked on many shows, including Panto season in Barking.
Peter Pan at the Albany is a barebones cast of five; Wendy, Peter, Hook/Mr Darling, Smee/Mrs Darling, Nana/ Puppeteer. I kind of missed kids being involved, but with how child labour laws have changes, it has become even more difficult to juggle rehearsals, and performances that include children. Also, I can imagine schools issuing fines for absences have also caused a big issue. this means that there is nearly as many people off stage as onstage! (And most of these seem to be the staff of the theatre!)
I love the simple transition of the set from bedroom to Neverland and back. Both the adaption of the set, and the use of puppetry is a beautifully conceived device, which means that you are in no doubt to what is happening. Also, the Narrator, who I’m pretty sure was a recording, was brilliant in navaigating the audience through the story. Frank Topping, has one of these warm voices which at once puts you at ease, and makes you comfortable. His rich, chocolate tones are perfect for this role.
The stand out performance for me was Mark Topping, who played both Smee And Mrs Darling. He is so natural, easy to watch, and his comedy timing was a Joy. He made a brilliant double act with Morgan Rees-Davies who played the villain Captain James Hook.
Tinker bell and the croc were noticeably absent from the cast list, and as Keystones to the story, I was untreated to see how they were created. Tinkerbell, the badtempered fairy who is well known from the Disney film of a Peter Pan, is simply created with a laser pointer, handheld lights and a lovely Tinkerly bell. I personally wish it had been pointed from anywhere but the wings, as the haze meant the beam was very obvious, but I’m sure Kids wouldn’t notice/mind. the Crocodile, was a inflateable one, the type you use in the pool on holiday. this is so that it can be tossed around the audience during the sword fight between the goodies and the pirates. This is great fun, and the children were roaring with laughter!
Over all, I think it was a lovely production to take the kids to. It was two halves of 40mins which is just perfect for little ones. The venue is wonderful, and in a beautiful building.
The show runs until the 22nd December 2018. Thickets are available from the box office, or call or visit their Website.