It’s that time of year again, it is Panto Season! “Oh yes it is!” And having thoroughly enjoyed our visit to watch Beauty and The Beast at The Anvil a couple of years ago we were over the moon to be asked to come along to review their 2023’s panto The Further Adventures of Peter Pan – The Return of Captain Hook.
The Anvil is an established theatre located in the heart of the town of Basingstoke. They are an independent charitable trust and bring year-round high entertainment, arts and community engagement here in Hampshire. Whether you enjoy musicals, comedian nights, informative talks, plays or dance, The Anvil hosts it all and we are extremely lucky to have such a venue local to us.
Location: Churchill Way, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 7QR
Parking: The Malls or Festival Place
Public Transport: Located close to both the train and bus stations
Accessibility: There are 6 wheelchair spaces in The Anvil, even surface through the foyer and into the main theatre. Assistance dogs are welcome. The Anvil is equipped with infra-red hearing enhancement systems for use with headsets, or portable induction loops. Relaxed performances are available for certain shows including the panto on Tuesday 19th December at 2pm and a signed show on Tuesday 12th December at 6pm.
As always with The Anvil, the staff were friendly and welcoming on arrival with clear systems in place for queuing and scanning tickets. The foyer was really lovely and festive with Christmas trees and lights as well as a fun pirate-themed treehouse in the bar area and a panto souvenir pop-up shop full of sweets, pirate toys and goody-filled treasure boxes containing an eye patch, a pirate scarf, an inflatable sword and chocolate coins (which we were quickly persuaded to buy by two little people).
The main bar offers a wide range of drinks and there is a snack bar for treats, slushies and of course, Jude’s Ice Cream (a personal fave!)
Into The Theatre
On arrival, we were told by a staff member which door we would need to enter to find our seats but if you are a little unsure or confused there is always somebody on hand to help. When entering the theatre, a member of staff will double-check your tickets and guide you to your spot.
The great thing about the seats in The Anvil is that in all the years I have been I haven’t ever had a ‘bad seat’. The view is always clear whether you are in the centre stalls, to the side or up in the circle. It is one theatre I know I don’t have to worry about not being able to see the stage. Even children won’t have a problem because booster seats are always available.
However, we did have one issue inside the theatre itself which I need to cover because I always want to be upfront and honest. From the moment we stepped in, it was very, very warm and at first, we thought it was because the show hadn’t started yet and so the air con hadn’t been switched on but unfortunately, this wasn’t the case and it just got warmer and warmer throughout the whole first half to the point that it became very uncomfortable. During the interval I did go and speak to a staff member to let them know but they were already aware of the problem and were working quickly to cool the theatre down ready for the second half which thankfully did happen. I’ve been going to The Anvil for years and this is the first time I have had an issue with the temperature so I am going to assume it was a one-off. As always the staff were great and extremely helpful and apologetic, I can never fault their customer service.
Time For The Panto
So, first up who is in this year’s panto? We have:
- Melanie Walters as Mrs Darling/Ethyl Mermaid (best known as Gwen from Gavin and Stacey)
- David Ribi as Peter Pan (Channel 5’s Milkshake presenter)
- Chris Pizzey as Smee (Eastenders, Doc Martin, as well as film parts and a panto fave over the last 20 years including Beauty and the Beast in 2021)
- Holly Atterton as Tinker Bell (known for her work with Nickelodeon’s Nick Jr Pop Group Go!Go!Go!)
- Chris Fearn as Captain Hook (known for many theatre roles over the years)
- Ruth Betteridge as Emily Darling (known for many theatre roles)
The story revolves around Emily Darling who is the great, great granddaughter of Wendy Darling. With Tinkerbell having an inkling that Hook may be back and Peter Pan not believing her, she sets off to find help in the form of Emily who she brings back to Neverland to convince and help Peter.
Hook is indeed back and wants revenge on Peter Pan for trying to get rid of him once and for all. He seeks assistance from his old friend Smee and the band of pirates but does Smee really like the idea of having the mean Hook back in his life?… Can Peter find his confidence to fight Hook? Can they save Tinkerbell and her Baby Bells? Can Emily get back home?
I won’t spoil it, you’ll just have to go along to see what happens.
What I will tell you is that this show is jam-packed full of fantastic songs – the highlight for me was Defying Gravity from Wicked, beautifully sung by David who plays Peter Pan (he has a wonderful voice!) There is A LOT of fun from interactive parts with the audience (warning: you may get a little wet at the start), the usual calls of “he’s behind you’s” and “oh no he isn’t”, “oh yes he is” which just makes the kids go wild, jokes for both the adults and the kids, clever use of the stage and screen, special effects and a very talented cast, a few of which I have to mention next…
First up, Tinkerbell played by Holly Atterton who does the entire show on rollerskates! I couldn’t stop watching her when she was on, she was the only cast member to wear rollerskates and she had to act, sing, dance and manoeuvre around the others on stage which she did with ease.
Then we have Chris Pizzey who played Smee and who also directed the show. He was great in Beauty and The Beast but I think he was even better in Peter Pan. The role was perfect for him and he engages so well with the audience and bounces off of their reactions. He is a born entertainer.
Smees band of pirates Tristan Crabtree, Mark Nixon and Jack Robbins may at first seem as though they are just the jokers of the show but they absolutely wowed us with their tricks and stunts, it was like being at a circus during one scene and I think all of us agreed that this was our favourite part. So well choreographed and timed, the audience went wild over it. They definitely deserve this special mention.
And lastly, I have to mention the children who played Tinkerbell’s little fairies the ‘baby bells’. They consisted of 16 young girls aged 8-12 years from Basingstoke Academy of Dancing and North Hampshire Academy of Dance who were excellent in their roles and were very professional. It was lovely to see young, local talent being included in the panto this year.
The show uses a lot of smoke at the start of the show as well as fire blaring up from the stage twice and some sparklers at the end. Smee and his pirates come into the audience towards the start of the show and as I mentioned before, you may get wet. There is a lot of use of lights and some with screens as well as a lot of audience shouting. The souvenir stall sells flashing swords which were being used in the audience throughout the show which can be distracting and a problem if you have eye/migraine issues. I was hit on the head with one during the show so this is something to also be aware of.
If this seems a bit much for you and your family there is a relaxed performance on 19th December at 2pm.
The show is around 2 hours 40 minutes long with a 20 minute interval. You can leave the theatre at any time to use the facilities, being family-based it is very laid back.
A panto is the perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit and this one definitely achieved that. We all had so much fun, it is ideal for the whole family and a great way to spend a few hours together. The cast, effects, jokes and stunts all made this panto stand out from any we have seen before (my husband even said to me, pantos have changed a lot since we were kids, haven’t they?!) and we would highly recommend seeing this before it closes on 31st December if you can. To find out more and to book your tickets just head over to The Anvil website.
*We were provided with tickets in exchange for an honest review. For further information please refer to my disclosure page.
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