Peter Pan

Date 29th December 2021
Society ACross the Boards Theatre School & Productions
Venue Viva Cabaret Bar, Blackpool
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Anna Cross
Choreographer Anna Cross

Report

Author: Kit Phillips

ACross the Boards Theatre returned to Viva Cabaret Bar in Blackpool this year with their seasonal pantomime of ‘Peter Pan’, written, directed and choreographed by Anna Cross, the school’s owner, who somehow even managed to find time to take on the role of Captain Hook! The show follows the well-known story of Wendy, John and (in this production) Michaela, along with Nana the dog as they journey off to Neverland with Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. Along the way, we meet The Lost Boys, Tiger Lily, and the ferocious Hook with his band of pirates.

As NODA North West’s Youth Co-ordinator, it goes without saying that I am a huge advocate of youth theatre, and for me, ACross the Board’s production had lots of things to celebrate! While only a smaller cast, there was a large diversity in age within the performers. This, however, was embraced by the production team and cast, with all of the younger students getting their own star turns throughout the evening. In addition, director and choreographer Anna Cross challenged her students with a multitude of dance styles, traditional pantomime routines, and even reading out messages from the audience. No one will be able to deny that the skills the young performers have developed while preparing and performing this production will serve to make them better, more-rounded entertainers in the future.

In my opinion, the show could have done with a few songs shaved from the second act, as the story became more about linking one song to another, rather than pushing the narrative forward. This is only a small note however on what was largely an enjoyable and well-rehearsed production.

Sophie Grimshaw embraced the leading role of Peter Pan with gusto, and along with her fairy sidekick Tinkerbell, played excellently by Lucinda Farrell, led the show well, embracing all the joys of live theatre and pantomime.

A huge shout out should go to Bethany Harrison for her portrayal of Wendy. Bethany had a huge amount of material to learn, including songs and dance routines, and never once faltered. I usually find that Wendy can be a difficult character to bring life to, yet Bethany’s portrayal was enjoyable and well-delivered throughout.

Elyssa Rowell as Michaela, William Hitchins as John, Holly Cross as Nana, Amelia Holloway as Tiger Lily, and Patience Cosgrave as The Narrator rounded off the older principal cast, each performing fantastically in their respective roles. Due to the smaller cast, all of these young performers had to perform in multiple scenes, songs and dance routines, all of which were done with great energy and a clear love for the stage. Well done!

Emily Richardson, Lilu Mitcham, Maggie Christian, Robin Hurst and Sienna Moore played the roles of Cubby, Raccoon, Conker, Tootles and Curly (the rowdy, motherless Lost Boys of Neverland) respectfully. I thought they made a fantastic little gang and were extremely enjoyable to watch. In fact, it would have been great to see a little more from these performers, as they clearly had great energy and characters!

As previously mentioned, ACross the Boards boasts a diverse age range of performers, and we were treated throughout the evening to performances from Lexi McEvoy (Sparkle Fairy), Willow Saxelby (Misty Fairy), Stephanie Farrell (Sprinkle Fairy), Jasmine Drury (Pirate O’Shell), Lola Drury (Pirate O’Jewel), Antonia Carpenito (Pirate O’Pearl), Matilda Hulley (Pirate O’Gem), Arla Thompson (Pirate O’Sunray), Arthur Hulley (Sailing Master O’Waters) and Alex Hitchins (Quarter Master O’Fish). In particular, Alex Hitchin’s performance was a real treat to watch: with outstanding facial expressions and a naturally likeable manner, he was a brilliant addition to the cast and a performer to certainly look out for in the future. 

Finally, I must commend the outstanding Lola Connor-Emmott for her portrayal of Mr Smee, the ‘Buttons’ style character of the pantomime. While clearly an accomplished dancer, vocalist and actor, Lola had a presence that put the audience at immediate ease. She commanded the stage fantastically, expertly navigating some of the most difficult challenges that pantomime offers, including adlibbed conversations with the audience. A truly brilliant performance in a role that many older and much more experience performers would struggle with.

I would like to thank ACross the boards for their hospitality and for an enjoyable, festive evening of theatre! I look forward to returning soon.