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Gillian Elisa
Peter Pan




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© Gillian Elisa 2004 - 2009

Hiss and Boo, The Riverfront Theatre Newport

A Cracking Good Panto!

There’s a sharp frost in the air. The bright lights of Newport’s Riverfront Theatre beckon. Inside the foyer there’s a mass of young people bubbling with excited anticipation, laser swords are waving and cutlasses gleaming. It’s pantomime time! Multi-instrumentalist Julian Tucker and his great band, Ray Dizon on drums give us a rousing opening chord, play some very funny overture music and to let us know we‘re in fairyland Tinkerbelle flies all around the stage by the magic of laser projection.

The newsboy’s loud cry of “Evening Standard” tells us we are in old London Town. He does a little tap dance at the foot of a lamp post and miraculously it lights up! More very lively music and the whole company burst into a flurry of Cockney dancing with the irrepressible Phylip Harries, this time out of his pantomime dame attire, in bright shiny waistcoat giving us in song his raucous impression of a Pearly King in full flight, with a nod and a wink and few ‘innocent’ double entendres we are away with robust delight.

Bloomsbury is quickly transformed into the nursery in the Darling home, backed with twinkling stars. We have a brief meeting with Nanna, a huge fluffy dog that I would have liked to have seen a lot more of. Riverfront pantomime regular Brian Hibbard is an irritable hapless Mr Darling and he is assisted by the gentle charm of his wife played by Gillian Elisa, keeping her comedy powder dry for later in the show. Then there are the children, first Michael played with wondrous wide eyes, alternately by Oliver Evans and Joe Hurst, John played with confidence by young actor Ashley Rolfe who does his best to be ‘grown-up’ but just can’t quite make it. Finally of course the engaging Wendy, a delightful and captivating performance from Anna Campkin who sings with a very clear beauty.

Into all this flies Peter, this is a dashing and most enjoyable performance from Kate Rawson, the central member of this charming, very entertaining team. He really does fly, high and all over the stage, very soon Wendy and her brothers are equally transported. The back stage crew handled what for a relatively small theatre is quite a technical challenge with great expertise.

Soon we are in Neverland with Wendy as a welcome and coveted mother figure to the very lively Lost Boys but as with all good pantomimes trouble is just around the corner. Or is it? Smee, Phylip Harries and Starkey, Francois Pandolfo form a top class comedy duo having great fun with the young audience as well as a bit with the older ones but scary pirates they do not make.

There is one scary one though, a very scary one, a menacing Captain Hook and in the hands of Brian Hibbard with his deft approach to the villain he cleverly elicits our antagonism without frightening any of the very young people in the audience too much. Before he captures all the ‘goodies’ Wendy and co have a charming escapade first with a bubbly mermaid, Gillian Elisa, with a twinkle in her eye and despite their fishtales the ensemble, choreographed by Sarah Cortez give us another of their clever sprightly dances. Then secondly Gillian Elisa sheds her fishtale and returns as Big Chief Mama. This is an hilarious Indian ritual, all kept to a beat of a drum and a touch of the Welsh language.

A lively mixture of great songs, magic and fun the Riverfront pantomime has all that a cracking good panto needs.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

Peter Pan - Panto at it's Best

Glitter, tinsel, nostalgia, and slapstick silliness. Yes, panto season is here again.
(Oh no it isn't etc).

Hiss and Boo have reshaped J. M. Barrie's classic Peter Pan into a seasonal jaunt for all age ages. While not structurally a natural choice for panto this adaptation actually works pretty well, thanks to the help of the script put together by ex Russ Abbot Richard Gauntlett and director Ben Tyreman's familiarity with the genre. New additions to Barrie's script abound- Dames are drafted in, and parts for camp pirates written specially. All the ingredients for frolics are here, there is even a pantomime crocodile in place of the horse.

What Hiss and Boo Co do best is prove you don't need an ex celebrity family name in order to make a decent panto. Instead they compile very credible and committed talent and let the production work on merit, rather then clinging to the coat tails of tired fame that would rather be elsewhere. In this way Newport panto costs a fraction of its cousins in Cardiff and Bristol while lacking nothing in terms of quality.

As for celebrity it is a credit to Brian Hibbard aka Captain Hook that he is remembered for more than being the Ex Flying Picket frontman (Only You still plays well though). He's a good jobbing actor and his villainous shenanigans always go down a storm in these parts.

Most of the other laughs were provided by Phylip Harries and Francois Pandolfo, the latter playing bottom buddy for Harries's dame, a Deliah Smith in drag. Sarah Cortez played Tiger Lilly and surely pleased most of the dads with her performance. Both Wendy and Peter Pan ( Kate Rawson and Anna Campkin) were more than solid. Gillian Elisa was under-used in the cameo roles of a weirdly Welsh Indian Chief and a Bonnie Tyler on the rocks mermaid. At one point she led the cast in a version of Shout, most cymraegified, this was the biggest and best number of the night. The young well disciplined chorus were drilled and choreographed throughout, a credit to Cortez.

While something of a chaotic jumble at times, this was panto at its best. I enjoyed this Peter Pan vastly more than the Hollywood version Hook - and there you have it. Hiss and Boo, better than read it here first.

Reviewed by: Chris Paul

Two Princes  |  Gillian Elisa with Jo's Heatwave  |  Peter and the Wolf  | Sleeping Beauty  |  Maenclochog  |  Peter Pan  |  Thomas Arms