Peter Pan at The Bristol Hippodrome: A jubilant show to thaw the heart of all Bristolians
Cheeky humour, plenty of glitter, and Taylor Swift?
A sumptuous display of sequins, swashbuckling and silliness, The Bristol Hippodrome presents a glitzy, cheeky version of Peter Pan this Christmas. An evening of pure escapism, brimming with gaiety and tomfoolery, Peter Pan is a field day for the inner child, with a generous dash of adult humour mixed in for good measure.
From the sleepy Darling household, we fly with Peter and Wendy to Neverland – the place where children never grow up – for two hours of childlike fun and games. Transported to a dazzling lagoon scene, my fellow panto-goers and I were met with flawless dancers who multi-roled as lost boys, pirates, and mermaids in the fantastical landscape of Neverland.
The loveable West Country comic, Andy Ford, as ‘Smee’, often produced genuine chuckles, with his clownish antics and apt comedic timing. Smee amusingly lip-synced to snippets of popular songs, cleverly making Adele sing “Hello, it’s Smee” and Taylor Swift, “It’s Smee, hi, I’m the problem, it’s Smee”. Addressing the audience with age-old techniques, Smee gleefully greets the audience with “Ahoy there Brizzle” upon each entrance and befriends each audience member with his West Country charm.
In true panto-style, there was lots of buffoonery and clowning around: comic scenes involved tongue twisters, dance battles, and the classic song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” adapted into “The Twelve Days of Shipwreck”. Though these scenes immersed the audience in pleasurable chaos, it felt as though the actors broke character perhaps one too many times, with lots of intentional line-fluffing, faux-mishaps and Faye from steps struggling to get her lines out from laughing during the shipwreck number, which ultimately unravelled into total disarray with a slapstick fall from David Suchet.
And while there were frequent moments of genuine humour, some of the crude jokes unfortunately verged on distasteful; admittedly the more cheap jokes – a telescope down the trousers or Mrs Smee turning to reveal a bare bottom, to name a few – seemed only to be picked up by rabid kids hyper on popcorn and fizzy drinks.
The humorously indecent Wagatha Smee, otherwise known as the drag extraordinaire Ceri Dupree, graced the stage in glittering splendour for a flashy rendition of “It’s Raining Men”. Her extravagance was show-stopping, literally, as the audience were forced to exclaim how ‘fa-a-abulous’ she looked upon each appearance. Mrs Smee was teasingly risqué, which charmed the audience, though some of her vulgarities were a touch too on-the-nose. Exhibiting an impressive range of flamboyant outfits, we saw Mrs Smee as Cher, Barbie, and bizarrely, a fishbowl? She also proudly unveiled her Brexit dress: “You want me out of it, but once I am you’re not so sure…”
The Barbie theme continued with Andy Ford as West Country Ken, using the classic line, ‘Alright me loverrr’. His six pack came in ‘tin-can’ form. The show also repackaged Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night” from the recent Barbie film, but – far from Barbie’s dreamhouse – this number was underwhelming, with shaky vocals from both Peter and Wendy.
References to Bristol itself were littered throughout the show, a classic punt at Bedminster, a snide reference to Portishead and comical disgust at Western Supermare which went down a treat with an audience quick to identify with the stereotypes.
The show featured celebrity star Faye Tozer as the ditsy mermaid, prompting a few self-indulgent Steps references to be thrown into the mix. “Mimi” tottered about glamorously and delivered her lines successfully, but her stardom was overshadowed by the menacing presence of David Suchet. Suchet commanded the stage with nefarious power, despite appearing comically short (almost Farquaad-like) when paired with his towering pirate-soldiers. His perfect strike of pantomime evil elicited clamorous boos and hisses from the audience as he brandished his sword and hook.
The show drew to a close with a joyous sing-along for the audience to participate in, led by Smee, who forced even the more resigned adults to join in the fun with the reminder that “at Panto, all adults become children again”. Certainly, the performance was infused with the child-like magic of Christmas and moments of silliness were all in good fun. Faye Tozer finished the night with a mega-mix of Steps hits, which had the audience encouraging each other to release their inhibitions and get up on their feet. The jubilant spirit of this show would thaw the hearts of even the iciest Bristolians, leaving us all on a festive high.
Featured image credit: Mark Dawson Photography
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