Pirates, vegetable jokes and Christmas cheer. The Marlowe’s Christmas Panto 2017 took us on a magical voyage to Neverland with their most recent production: Peter Pan. InQuire were invited to watch the show last night on its press night. The cast and crew put on a fantastic, two-hour show of pure magic and excitement, for children and adults to appreciate (as Gemma Hunt (Tiger Lily) neatly said: ‘it brings out the child in everyone…especially as it’s ‘Peter Pan’, which is about not wanting to grow up’). There was classic panto humour, brilliant comedy, cultural and social references and captivating stage effects. Afterwards, InQuire spoke to some of the celery-brities from the cast who brought us the magic after an impressive, and intense two week rehearsal period.
The performance was full of acrobatics and stunts by The Black Eagles; an acrobat group originally from Tanzania, who are now based in the UK. There were also a lot of technical work included, such as pyrotechnics and wires for flying around. We were curious to know what it was like to fly around over a 1200 people audience:
“Painful.” David Ribi, who plays Peter Pan, says. “We’re not in control of our movements when we’re in the air. I can’t take much responsibility for what I do.”
Tinkerbell, played by Welsh actress Jo Osmond thinks everyone should get to try some flying at least once in their lives:
“It’s not at all scary. I stunt double children for a living, and I’m not afraid of heights. I think it brings so much magic to the show. You just can’t have Peter Pan without flying.”
When we met with the director and writer of the show, Paul Hendy, he expressed some of his own thoughts about the pantomime:
“It is a wonderful thing to stage ‘Peter Pan’ at Marlowe, considering the uniqueness of pantomime. I am sure it will be a different theatre experience for a lot of audiences especially for those who haven’t experienced pantos in the past.”
We were hugely impressed by the quality of the performances and the special effects on stage. Hendy added, that the cast had a mere two weeks of rehearsals before opening night.
Since the actors have only two weeks to learn everything, we were curious to know whether there have been any improvisations. Ben Roddy, who plays Mrs Smee (the fat man in a dress), revealed the funny bits are improvised to some extent, but the cast is under a quite tight script. With so many puns to deliver there isn’t “mush-room” for improvisation.