Peter Pans are thin on the ground in West Country theatres this Christmas. This curate’s egg of a Theatre Royal Bath production may explain why, for it is always a challenge to marry a knockabout approach with JM Barrie’s foray into the pains of growing up.
Here Barrie’s motif comes off best, with director Michael Gattrell more at ease etching in the Edwardian background than staging the endless battles with pirates in Neverland.
Some of this is down to a two-toned performance from Paul Nicholas, marking his 50th year on the stage with a splendidly stiff upper-lip Mr Darling but an altogether too affable Captain Hook.
It is also true of the energetic Tim Edwards as Peter Pan, with his reflection that “to die would be an awfully big adventure”, and Jenny Huxley-Golden’s demure Wendy, experiencing the pangs of first love and the object of the childish jealousy of Rachel Grundy’s roller-skating Tinkerbell.
Colourful sets and comedy are, of course, what the youngsters out front want. Bath pantomime regular Jon Monie, as Smee, is not the slightest bit embarrassed by the corniest of quips, while Rebecca Wheatley’s Mermaid has an unexpected stand-up routine all to herself.