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Young Critic: Janette Loughlin reviews ‘Peter Pan’ at the Grand Opera House


Production: Peter Pan
Venue: Grand Opera House
Date: 5th December

Young Critic: Janette Loughlin

Where can you find flying cast members,pyrotechnics, giant animatronic animals and a thrilling 3D journey under the sea all on one stage this festive season? In Peter Pan showing at the Grand Opera House in Belfast until the new year.

Peter Pan (Mikey Jay-Heath) and Wendy (Kweeva Garvey) at the Grand Opera House panto performance of Peter Pan, opening on Saturday night (2 Dec).
Photo by Aaron McCracken

With its impressive set, array of costumes and dancers, and not a Christmas tune in sight, Peter Pan feels like a more grown-up version of a panto. Yes it has some traditional back and forths between the actors and audience – Oh no he didn’t! Oh yes he did! – but it’s delightful to partake in, and gives the audience that indulgent feeling of contributing to the fun on stage.

Longstanding panto favourite May McFettridge plays May Smee, winning the audience over with her charm offensive, or rather, her playful offensive charms. Belfast actor Paddy Jenkins plays her partner in crime, Smee, who provides plenty of laughs with his slapstick comedy routines. Claire King, known for her TV roles in Emmerdale and Bad Girls, plays Mimi the Magical Mermaid, a witty and charming mermaid whose shimmering turquoise costume is right on trend for the 2017 mermaid-craze.

Paul Burling shines as Starkey, offering a host of his well-loved voice impressions to a keen and responsive audience. David Bedella, no stranger to Grand Opera House audiences, plays Captain Hook – an extremely likable baddie with a melodious booming voice and long trilling Rrrrrs.

Performers from the McMaster Stage School make up the lively children’s ensemble, while an array of young talented actors play our lovable characters – Mikey Jay-Heath as an energetic Peter Pan, Hollie O’Donoghue as a cheeky Tinkerbell, Natalie Windsor as a fierce Tiger Lily and Kweeva Garvey as the endearing Wendy.  It’s encouraging to see plenty of strong female leads helping to make up the cast on one of Belfast’s main performing stages.

The show is written to appeal to all ages – from young children to teenagers to adults, it has something for everyone. Like every Belfast-based Christmas show it has jokes that touch upon current affairs and politics here, but they’re delivered in a way that doesn’t feel honey roast ham-fisted.

Festive shows like this are often children’s first experience of going to see a stage show. Peter Pan brings to life all the magic and wonder they’ve heard about in fairytales, and had a glimpse of through film and TV, but seeing it live is a whole new ball game. The young ensemble cast of the show are brilliant, and if I was six years old and seeing this for the first time I know I’d be feeling inspired to get involved in theatre.

An array of pop songs from recent years have been cleverly reworked to help tell the story, from Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You to Chicago’s Cell Block Tango. With the multiple costume changes,dance routines and carefully choreographed fights, Peter Pan is a spectacle for the senses and well-worth seeing this festive season.

Tiger Lilly (Natalie Winsor) at the Grand Opera House panto performance of Peter Pan, opening on Saturday night (2 Dec).
Photo by Aaron McCracken

Tinkerbell – Hollie O’Donoghue












Please note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position, views or opinions of TheatreNI