Living in the sticks (a slight exaggeration, granted), I sometimes feel like my family and I are missing out on a bit of cul-cha and entertainment.  We occasionally travel into London, money permitting (it ain’t cheap!) but to go out for an evening in London, we’d have to come home before we’d even gone out.  The last train home is ridiculously early. 

We are lucky enough, however, not to live too far away from Canterbury.  This has offered us some semblance of entertainment, particularly in the form of children’s shows at the Gulbenkian Theatre based at University of Kent.  They’ve had some great shows there from touring theatre companies and I debated going down there this Christmas to watch The Stick Man.

A bit closer to home though, I found out that Peter Pan was showing at The Britannia Theatre in Dickens World, Chatham, so on the spur of the moment (and because I couldn’t be bothered to drive to Canterbury,) I booked tickets for my partner and I to take our six year old.

I love a good panto (“Oh no you don’t … etc”) but they can bit hit and miss.  Last night’s performance, however, was a definite HIT!

Now, don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking the Shaftesbury Theatre here … so the sound was a bit ropey … but, from the moment Tinkerbell and Peter Pan collected all the children in the audience and took them to the front to watch the show right by the stage, they were hooked.  Ha – hooked!  Geddit?!  OK, OK, my jokes are probably on a par with the cast’s jokes but isn’t that the whole point of a panto?  Slightly camp, a bit naff, but bloody good fun?

Wendy and Peter both had a couple of songs each to sing and surprisingly, their voices were pretty good.  Tinkerbell was wonderfully dead-pan in her delivery – her dry sense of humour was a definite hit with the parents as well as the children and the supporting cast all played their parts brilliantly.  Smee was like Baldrick in a pirate’s costume and the assorted pirates gave their performances 100% (even when in sequinned micro dresses.)

The real star of the show, however, was Captain Hook.  To start with, we were slightly taken aback by him having to ask to be boo’ed.  Not really what you would associate with a real baddie – “Boo me, boo me!” – but it became a unique catchphrase that was hysterical (well, you had to be there.)  Our son played the role of ‘goodie’ with real professionalism.  We could hear “Moany/Bogey head,” being shouted at Captain Hook and it is to Captain Hook’s credit that our son really wanted him to be eaten by the crocodile (amongst other horrible alternative endings.)

Towards the end, instead of just getting a chosen few children up on stage, every child was asked to get up and they had a boys versus girls sing-off of The Music Man.  Our son wasn’t quite sure what the bagpipes were but Smee encouraged all the children just to jump up and down a lot – which is basically how all children dance anyway!

We even had the obligatory pie-in-the-face moment when Captain Hook got his comeuppance at the end and, of course, everybody got their happy ending.

After the show, the cast made their way to the foyer where Smee managed to scare the be-jesus out of my partner by standing right behind him with his face right next to his, until he finally noticed and jumped out of his skin!  Handshakes all round and it was great to be able to interact with all of the cast.

They waited in the foyer to talk to the children and have photographs taken with them which just added to the whole experience.  All of the cast thanked our son for taking part and making the show so special, which just made him beam with pride.  His smile brought a tear to my eye!

Chatham may not have the best reputation in the world but Peter Pan was a real gem.   I think Dockside is trying hard to attract more shops and visitors alike and hopefully, the calibre of attraction/shop increases so that Chatham can capitalise on positive performances like last night’s.

There are still tickets available and at £12 for adults and £9 for children (with hot dog and drink included,) it really is value for money.

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Published by Kate Sutton

Writer, Mother, Dater.

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