More than a century after Wendy was having an awfully big adventure with Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, her Great-Great-Granddaughter – also called Wendy (Louise Young) – is working as a fish packer in Greenwich docks alongside a sisterhood of friends who are all growing rather tired of their sexist boss.
Having a good time at a Pollard panto is guaranteed – his unrivalled knowledge of the genre leaves no trope unexploited, no entendre undoubled and no opportunity for a gag missed.
Hanging around Wendy’s neck is Tinkerbell’s Bell – passed down through the Darling’s family with the memo that should Peter Pan (Rory Maguire) be in trouble, Tink (Krystal Dockery) will ring the bell. No prizes for guessing what happens next. Wendy and the girls need little further encouragement to quit Greenwich and head to Neverland on an absconded City Cruise boat.
Meanwhile Captain Hook (Anthony Spargo) and Smee (Sackie Osakovnor) have survived the last 100 years cryogenically frozen in a block of ice that is melting in the dockyard. Upon reanimation Hook is delighted to learn Pan is still alive so he can finally kill him!
Andrew Pollard returns to Greenwich Theatre for the eleventh year as writer, director and undeniable star in the form of Long Joan Silver – the larger than life tea lady of the docks sporting a breathtakingly outrageous new frock at every scene change and a parakeet named Percy (James-Paul McAllister). Having a good time at a Pollard panto is guaranteed – his unrivalled knowledge of the genre leaves no trope unexploited, no entendre undoubled and no opportunity for a gag missed.
Another familiar face in the cast is Anthony Spargo, reprising his role as the camp villain opposite Pollard’s dame. Spargo and Pollard’s onstage chemistry is palpable as they playfully attempt to corpse each other and ad lib additional comic material. You have to feel a little sympathy for the remaining cast members trying to keep a straight face whilst these two are dancing on the edge of anarchy – but it’s their experience and skill that assures you chaos will not ensue.
Production values are visibly high. Costumes and set assert quality in their construction and there’s even the addition of wire-flying so Pan and Wendy can take to the air.
As with previous years, Pollard throws other theatrical tricks and contemporary culture into the mix. This year it’s Black Light Theatre – made popular in Prague – and the YouTube viral sensation Apple Pen, Pineapple Pen (which even Pollard admits is a generational thing). This is all strung together with pop songs, jokes for locals, the occasional dalliance with politics (Brexit and Trump can’t get away scot-free) and the traditional singalong at the end.
With all this going on, why only four stars? The problem for Pollard is he set the bar so high with last year’s Red Riding Hood, Peter Pan just doesn’t quite match it. Perhaps it’s the dense exposition in the early scenes; maybe it’s the lack of the stock panto characters styled on Buttons and Baron Hardup (sorry, Tink and Percy just don't cut it here); it could even be the shallowness of the stage and horizontal track of the fly giving everything a two dimensional feel. In isolation these criticisms seem trifling, but compound just enough to take the edge off what is still a thoroughly entertaining night out.