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A Pan-tastic show!

REVIEW: The Further Adventures of Peter Pan – The Return of Captain Hook (Malvern Theatres, December 9 to January 2, 2022)

TRAVELLING to Malvern en route to our panto date, I noticed Venus shining high in the sky to the south west, as if guiding our way.

Chatting away in the car, I told my grandson Alfie as much as I knew about the planet, saying it was the brightest star in the heavens to be seen at this time of year.

However, within the hour, I was proved wrong. Because I can now tell you that the biggest star in these parts is not Venus, but a certain comic by the name of Mark James, who – aided by a brilliant cast – is raising the rafters of the Festival Theatre, day after delirious day with this fabulous seasonal treat.

Yes indeed, Malvern’s favourite clown is back as Smee, with a bang, crash, wallop, and plainly making up for lost time. For if you recall, his show was cancelled at the last moment this time last year when the entire country – apart from Number 10, Downing Street, that is – went into lockdown.

Yet Covid can’t keep a good man down, for despite the setbacks last Christmas, he’s still as mad as a bucket of frogs, the one-liners coming in quick-fire succession, many of them topical, all of them absolute rib-ticklers.

I’ve reviewed Mark before, commenting that his style reminds me of Jimmy Clitheroe’s act, one that draws from the rich well that is the Northern music hall, clubland and theatres tradition. And my, it really works, hitting the spot every time.

And so we come to writer Jon Monie’s plot. Things may not have moved on for the eternally youthful Peter, but there have nevertheless been plenty of changes down at the lagoon and in Neverland.

For a start, Wendy’s not making a personal appearance as she’s now a centenarian and then some. The Lost Boys have grown up too, so they’re no longer boys, and probably not lost, either.

But the biggest shock of all – news flash - is that Captain Hook was not eaten by the crocodile after all, and is still striding the poop deck of the Jolly Roger, avasting, belaying and generally being a pain in the pantaloons.

Mind you, I must say that his previous encounter with the sinister saurian seems to have brought about a personality change.

In fact, I rather warmed to the old physically challenged sea dog. Tom Lister, late of Emmerdale, where he was also killed off, seems to be a reformed man, more in touch with his feminine side than was the boisterous buccaneer we knew of old.

Not that this makes any difference to the decibel level of the boo broadsides, though. Make no mistake, he still gets plenty of the old verbal cat o’ nine tails from the motley crew in the stalls and gallery.

Hmmm… I wonder if this amazing case of resurrection means he’s going to come back from the dead as Carl King in Emmerdale?

Lloyd Warbey sparkles as Peter Pan, flying through the air and literally sweeping Wendy’s great-granddaughter Emily (Jenny Huxley-Golden) off her feet in more ways than one, while Tinker Bell (Rebecca Stenhouse) gloriously glitters and gleams in fanfares of fairy dust.

And of course, the show needs a steady hand on the tiller, which is constantly supplied by Emily’s mum, played with matronly majesty by Natalie Hollingworth.

And as for that incredible acrobatic routine two thirds of the way through the show, how on earth did no one come a cropper? We must all have been holding our breath during that one.

So there you have it - this year’s Ma

lvern panto is packed with talent, right from the top of the Jolly Roger’s mainmast, into the holds, and perhaps even right down to the bilges.

Just the ticket for everyone, whether you’re aged from nought to 90, it’s a panto that should not be missed. Oh yes, it is!

Pictured: Madness and mayhem reign at Malvern Theatres.

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