first class flight to the fun stuff with Eden Court panto Peter Pan
Time flies when you’re having loads of fun with Peter Pan in the Eden Court Panto.
Launch is instantaneous, and with its pretty perfect package of jokes, songs, nonsense, and clear storytelling, it’s a happy landing as the farewell streamers explode over a satisfied crowd.
Although not based on one of the most well-known fairy tales, Scottish novelist JM Barrie’s beloved tale has become a universal Disney screen favourite.
And Peter Pan is just as magical as any of the more traditional pantos with his escape to Neverland, the land of pirates, mermaids and Native Americans, here called Rainbows. What adult doesn’t dream of fleeing there in the face of gas bills and news of war…
Second, the really big bonus in Peter Pan is the flying. And with this Imagine Theater production, we don’t have to wait too long after the curtain rises in the darlings’ bedroom to catch Peter popping in with his fizzy-cute fairy friend Tinkerbell (Laura Blair).
For the Darling family – children Wendy, Michael and John – flying is more like floating.
But Peter Pan (Reece Duncan) shows off plenty of dives and acrobatic mid-air somersaults while the gang travels to Neverland to take on the evil Captain Hook.
By this point, the powerful chemistry brewed over six years of Eden Court panto seasons was bubbling well again between comedy dream team Steven Wren – playing dame Moira McSmee – and Ross Allan – as sidekick Starkey.
It was around this time that we started saying OUR panto lines like pros…
As the Darlings’ nanny, Moira McSmee (Wren), she moaned to us that she was exhausted looking after the kids – ‘I’m too old for this!’ we all called back on cue, ‘No, you are Not!’.
And by that point, the relentless joke count had also begun.
“My name is Starkey – I should be Sparky but I’m not that smart!” Ross Allan grinned.
And alongside the barrage of delightfully cheesy running-from-the-next-cracker jokes were some genuinely moaning jokes like, What do you call eight legs of venison for £70? Too nice! (Got it?).
The product placement (first D&E Coaches only plug in seven minutes – loved the boat though…) meant we weren’t in danger of forgetting where we were. From mentioning local businesses like Maggie Blyth’s and Johnny Foxes to visiting places like Lossiemouth, Beauly and Inverness, the screenwriters also forgot about local politicians, including Douglas Ross, and even checked the name of Westminster’s recent former Prime Minister, Liz Fachwerk!
Song-wise, there were some bangers this year – most with their own lyrics, from Will Young’s Joy and Katy Perry’s Roar, Mrs McSmee’s Copacabana, Dancing In The Streets with the Mermaids to the big Don’t Stop b believe and a chance to love Wendy (Lorenza Michelucci-Dunn) singing Rihanna’s Somebody’s Going To Miss You.
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There were even a few of those little “mistakes” we all love – a bottle of poison left behind in the next scene before being spirited away by the stage crew – and earlier when Mrs McSmee looked down at the musicians in the orchestra pit and herself Effect complained about a missing sound “Not on the press evening! If that’s in the review…!”
Oops! (hey hey).
The “animals” are worth mentioning, the lovable St. Bernard dog Nana, who with her own “Awww!” from the crowd and the much less endearing, creepy, hook-eating crocodile, who moves across the stage in a flash but thoughtfully crunches the captain to death – with a mighty burp.
Reece Duncan as Peter has a beautiful singing voice, swings his buckle brilliantly and is mistaken for Ed Sheeran by Mrs. McSmee!
There are changes in the traditional story for the time we live in… Peter’s adventurous, free-spirited role is adapted for women by Tinkerbell as well, as is the replacement of the original story’s Native American heroine, Tiger Lily, for the more PC perhaps Rainbow ( Briana Jolly).
Although sadly there was no repeat of last year’s best part, The 12 Days Of Christmas – and to me the words on this year’s community song sheet seemed a bit too small to read (or were those the eyes of this panto- veterans?)!
But the traditional ‘Clarty’ track with Steven and Ross was a total triumph.
The scene took place on a wildly bobbing boat and saw Mrs McSmee and Starkey trying to stay upright as they poured bowls of pudding out of the portholes and over each other. Just looking at it made you seasick – and the audience loved it.
It’s nice to have the panto’s buzz back – especially after Covid forced it to end early for weeks last year.
This time there’s extra pzazz with the return of the junior ensemble for the first time since 2019 – four teams of youngsters sharing the energetic duties on stage.
And it seemed at least one future young panto star might have graced the stage amid the traditional lineup of youngsters pulled up at the end of Friday to receive a reward – this year a goodie bag from Harry Gow.
Archie (8), Mela (8) and Hannah-Lee (10) revealed their Christmas wishes – a BMX, an iPad and butter slime. But Amelia, 5, stopped Ross Allan in his tracks and said her choice was “a guinea pig with a hatch for babies to come out”…
A toy, was the explanation from Ross after a looong pause.
But Amelia had already discovered the joys of spinning around like a tiny star in front of us and doing what Steven called “the biggest wish” to charm the panto crowd.
Maybe we should remember her name…
Peter Pan is now running at Eden Court until Sunday January 8th.