There’s not much that can’t be improved with a smile or two – and thankfully the Lichfield Garrick pantomime had plenty of them on offer at a time when we need them more than ever.
The All New Adventures of Peter Pan was a laughter-filled, song and dance journey through a familiar tale, albeit with some minor twists and cultural references thrown in for good measure.
Settling down into those familiar red seats after a lengthy absence was a lovely reminder that pantomime – and theatre in general – has the power to create a genuine sense of excitement and escapism even before the curtain goes up.
And when it did rise, the audience were instantly given a reminder that shows on the big stage have lost none of their power to deliver on those expectations, with the small but talented cast delivering laughter, song and dance by the bucketload.
Marcus Billany showed his West End pedigree as Peter, while Maria Connelly’s first major-role post-graduation showed she has a bright future ahead of her, with her performance as Elizabeth – daughter of the exceptionally-talented Joanne Heywood’s Wendy (amongst other characters!) – offering a glimpse of a star in the making.
Similarly, Amy Murchison gave the Garrick audience a chance to see another performer clearly destined for a bright future, with her efforts as Tinkerbell – a fairy with more than a sprinkling of attitude.
Others in the on-stage cast include Molly Francis, Daniel Boardman and Dominic Stevenson who tackle a number of background characters to give the show depth and dimension.
But no pantomime is complete without a villain to boo and a dame to deliver the moments of slapstick – and in David McKechnie (Captain Hook) and Sam Rabone (Mrs Smee) the Lichfield Garrick has again found the perfect ingredients.
The two enjoy an obvious chemistry and feed off the performances of each other brilliantly. Despite undoubtedly having gone through their lines umpteen times already in rehearsals and early performances, both were clearly sporting smirks and desperately trying to hold character at times.
But that is part of the fun of the pantomime. It should have moments of breaking the mould by creating interaction between the cast and the audience. All of this made everyone feel they were a part of every shoehorned joke, comic reference or toe-tapping song and dance routine.
There’s no doubt that we need laughs more than ever at a time when there hasn’t been much to smile about. Similarly, the theatre needs the support of audiences more than ever after a prolonged period of closure and long-term uncertainty.
The All New Adventures of Peter Pan is the perfect excuse to show your support and get that much-needed couple of hours of escapism, dad jokes and good old-fashioned fun back in return.
The pantomime runs until 2nd January. For tickets, visit the Lichfield Garrick website.