Review: Riotous fun and huge performances... it's the Pompey Panto at The Kings!

Hook – The Further Adventures of Peter Pan, Kings Theatre, Southsea, until Sunday, December 31.
Captain Hook & Ensemble 4 (pic by Alan Bound for The Kings Theatre)Captain Hook & Ensemble 4 (pic by Alan Bound for The Kings Theatre)
Captain Hook & Ensemble 4 (pic by Alan Bound for The Kings Theatre)

It really doesn’t take him long. Jack Edwards as Mrs Smee soon gets his man-cam out, projecting the whole audience onto the screen behind him, the better to select his man for the evening. Jack’s back as Mrs Smee, and Mrs Smee wants a man – the perfect platform for the saucy adlibbing which is Edwards’ forte and which is so much a part of what makes the Kings panto so special year after year.

Edwards is on cracking form throughout, particularly though towards the end for the shout-outs. He knows just how far to push it and he pushes it to the limit, his legendary “fat bloke in a dress” routine bringing the house down. Last year’s role just didn’t give him quite the right opportunities; Mrs Smee this year is the perfect pretext for panto mayhem such as only Jack can concoct it.

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In truth, this new take on Peter Pan is probably on the thin side of minimal when it comes to an actual storyline, a fact which leaves the first half feeling a bit bitty, but the second half roars back strongly, sending everyone home happy – with a running time which feels just about right.

Key in the mix is Shaun Williamson, best known for his stint as the loveable Barry in BBC’s EastEnders, here playing the dastardly Captain Hook, and he gets the villainy just right. Hook’s really not awfully nice, but really you could never dislike Barry – and Williamson walks the line nicely. James “Arg” Argent is our Peter Pan, and it’s another excellent performance, spirited, likeable and fun. Very strong too from Elizabeth Rose as our Tinkerbell, sweet but feisty.

The music is particularly good this year, with a top choice of songs. Who would have thought that we’d have EastEnders’ Barry leading a YMCA karaoke? The dancing is great too, and the projections which take us from London to Peter Pan land are magical. It’s a panto which doesn’t offer a big wedding at the end. In fact, there’s no love interest (well, beyond Jack and the poor chap in the audience he’s picking on). But there’s no harm in ringing the changes – and this is a fine Pompey panto even if the story could have been stronger.

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