REVIEW: Peter Pan, Alexandra Theatre, Bognor Regis, until Sunday, January 3.

Bognor Regis Peter Pan pic by Wayne Humphrey
Bognor Regis Peter Pan pic by Wayne Humphrey

Every panto needs a bit of magic. The show at the Regis Centre this year has got it in abundance.

There’s a gorgeous moment when the London skyline falls away beneath him as Garry Ellis’ Peter Pan soars off to Neverland, singing Don’t Stop Me Now. It’s quite beautifully done.

Just as special – particularly if you are lucky enough to be sitting right at the back – is the moment Dave Benson Phillips as Smee asks the assembled kiddies whether they want to know his secret sign. You can see them all sponataneously lean forward as one – a moment which epitomises the togetherness you get at the best possible pantos.

OK, there are plenty of jokes which, at the moment, are falling completely flat; and there patches which are perhaps just a little bit rough. But there is no doubting the spirit which shines through everything – a spirit which will outshine plenty of shows this Christmas which have had considerably more money thrown at them. Bognor’s Peter Pan is cheap and cheerful in a way which makes virtues of both.

Leading the way is Benson Phillips, an absolute natural at getting the audience on board – and at making several teachers squirm in their seats when he singles them out for special attention. Benson Phillips is fast and funny and endlessly good fun.

Garry Ellis is an open and engaging Peter who manages to tug at a few heartstrings; opposite him, Jamie Bannerman is the perfect Hook, hamming it all up wonderfully, particularly as the cowardy custard we all know him to be. Vicky Edwards also adds huge value as a mumsy Mrs Darling and a man-eating mermaid: throw in some lovely dancing and a great selection of music, and you’ve got a great-hearted show that definitely won’t break the bank.

Phil Hewitt

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