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Practically perfect Peter Pan

John Michie of Holby and Corrie fame hooks in the laughs as the one-handed pirate in Aylesbury's feel-good festive show. Read my review here.

You’d perhaps expect me to be slightly jaded from my third panto outing of the season (oh no you wouldn’t! – OK, I’ll get my coat). But I’m back from Peter Pan at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre highly tickled by a slick, funny show that I think is the best they’ve put on since I started reviewing back in the Victorian era.

The pairing of Andy Collins (local celeb, ‘warm up guy’ for X-Factor and BBC radio presenter) and La Voix (formerly BGT with excellent singing/comedy chops) is a comfy one – they’ve worked together on the Aylesbury panto for the last three years and it must give some reassurance to the celebs who join them and also to the audience, who feel like they’re in safe hands.

This year’s big name draw was John Michie, of Holby and Corrie fame, and former Muddy crush – the womanising, hard-drinking brain Holby City surgeon Guy Self was surely meant to be crushed like a walnut between my thighs!

Michie donned Captain Hook’s wig and scarlet coat, and he clearly had the time of his life on the stage, hamming it up, playing for laughs, delivering his lines with relish. We’ll let him off the so-so singing – you can’t be good at everything, right?

The first thing to say about this performance is that its a real pro operation, with a relatively large cast (including lots of children as you’d expect with Lost Boys and the Darling kids involved), live orchestra, a lot of high-wiring and pyrotechnics and no expense spared on La Voix’s costumes – can’t lie, I’m kind of hankering after the sequin mermaid dress.

Panto rehearsals are never more than a couple of weeks max but the cast were really well drilled, and apart from a forgotten line from La Voix (expertly joked about in the following scene) it was pretty flawless.

The now infamous 12 Days of Christmas routine  with the ‘bra that was made to fit three’  (above) where Andy Collins, La Voix and others throw pots and pans around the stage and chase plastic loo rolls around the auditorium, is still my children’s favourite bit of the show. Well, that and the bit when the waterpistols come out, Andy Collins picks out various kids to deluge, and everyone gets soaking wet.

It was all perfectly silly fun, and there was a merciful absence of anything too X-Factorish about the night – it really was traditional panto in the best sense of the world.

Special mention to Natalie Hollingworth as Tiger Lily, who had the best tonsils of the supporting cast, and also Nickelodeon’s Holly Atterton as Tinker Bell who spent her entire night in roller skates and managed to wring some real emotion out of her solo number.

Jessica Punch, who played Peter Pan, gave it everything too though my only quibble of the night – allow me just one! – is that her voice in duet with Wendy’s was too ‘close’, and I think I would have preferred a male Peter for that reason. But I couldn’t fault her performance in itself.

Nothing else to say at this point but go, go, go – it’s a strong contender for this year’s best panto.

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