Peter Pan Panto - Whitley Bay Playhouse

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* We had complimentary tickets to press night *

Last week we went along to the the opening night of Peter Pan, this year’s Panto at Whitley Bay Playhouse. I had high hopes as I’d loved last year's Cinderella at the Playhouse, but this year the story and jokes didn’t really hit the spot for me. However, my 4 year old, who has been lucky enough to see three pantos this year, says Whitley Bay was his favourite. It’s always a relaxed environment so a good first panto for families with young children.

The Show

This year the show is Peter Pan and Blue Genie (who produce the panto at the Playhouse) did not disappoint with the flying stunts. It always adds a bit of wow factor when the characters magically start flying across the stage. The scenery and special effects were perfect for this. A projector had been used so some of the flying scenes were set to a background of a moving London skyline. It was really effective and brought extra magic to it all.

Peter Pan at the Playhouse follows the story we all know. Anthony Costa from Blue is Captain Hook, with Steve Walls (much loved at Whitley Bay), and Ben Hanson (from CBBC’s Tracey Beaker) as his pirate comedy sidekicks. 

Steve Walls is brilliant, he is very capable hands for leading a panto. He really shined during the improv with the kids who got on stage for audience participation. He was so funny with them, whilst making them feel at ease. The relationship between him and Ben Hanson works really well and their scenes were the funniest in the show, however, this year I didn’t feel like we saw enough of Steve to keep the panto as pulled together as I would have hoped for. 

There were a lot of leading characters: Peter Pan, Wendy, John and Michael, Hook, the panto dame (who was another pirate side kick), Tiger Lily and the Lost Boys. So to me felt like they didn’t have the chance to build up enough rapport with the audience. Some of the scenes without Steve Walls lacked some comedy timing and delivery. It didn’t feel as polished or funny as last year’s show. 

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It did still have the beloved Panto elements though, Whitley Bay panto is famous for the Ghostbusters/“He’s behind you” scene and it went down as well as usual. The audience participation was also really well done, with plenty of laughs and ‘ahhhs’. It was one of those pantos where you leave hoarse from shouting at the stage, and I think one of the reasons why the kids had seemed to enjoy it so much. 

Last year I bemoaned that there weren’t enough funny parts for the female cast, so it was brilliant to see that the girls playing the Lost Boys had a some great lines.

There are 2 things that set Whitley Bay apart from other pantos we’ve been to. First is that the theatre and show is really family friendly. There aren’t really any innuendo or political jokes that would go over kids’ heads. We went to a 4pm showing on a Saturday and it was full of families with younger children. The seating is pretty generous so you don’t feel too hemmed in and there is room in case little kids want to stand up or fidget a bit without imposing too much on people around you. Little bladders meant there is was fair bit of movement in the aisles which could be irritating if you have older children who can settle for longer periods of time, but for me it's the opposite. I feel more relaxed knowing that everyone is in the same boat so I don’t need to stress too much if my kids end up needing a few loo trips.

My other favourite thing about Whitley Bay pantos is the sing-a-long at the very end. Both years we’ve been they’ve finished with a medley of songs that the audience has been encouraged to sing and dance along to. This year in tribute to Anthony Costa it was a three song Blue megamix and I think over half of the audience were on their feet. It always finishes the panto on such a high with a great atmosphere. 

I feel like I can’t write a review about this panto without commenting on some of the bits I found problematic which revolved around the portrayal of Native Americans. Of course Peter Pan was written over 100 years ago, and it’s the story of a young boy’s imagination BUT I think there are ways which you could tell the story in a more sensitive way than this panto pulled off. There were elements which made me uncomfortable, such as the way the all white cast dressed as ‘Indians’ spoke and sung. I know there is a fine line in panto, much of which is based on stereotypes and in this case the story which was written in a very different time, but I think more thought and sensitivity was required. 

I feel like I’ve been quite negative in this post, but despite some of the points I’ve made we had a lovely time. I actually think this panto is one of the best options in the North East for younger children. It’s not as expensive as some of the others, the show wasn’t scary and doesn’t include jokes they wouldn’t understand, and the theatre is well set up for them.  

Playhouse

Whitley Bay playhouse is pretty easy to get to. There is a small free car park outside, which was full by the time we got there, but there is plenty of off street car parking and quite a bit of that is free too. It’s about 10 minutes walk from Monkseaton Metro station.

SCORES ON THE PANTO DOORS

The kids gave this a 10 out of 10 whilst the more grinch like parents scored it 6.

TICKETS

SCORES ON THE PANTO DOORS

The kids gave this a 10 out of 10 whilst the more grinch like parents scored it 6.

TICKETS

It did still have the beloved Panto elements though, Whitley Bay panto is famous for the Ghostbusters/“He’s behind you” scene and it went down as well as usual. The audience participation was also really well done, with plenty of laughs and ‘ahhhs’. It was one of those pantos where you leave hoarse from shouting at the stage, and I think one of the reasons why the kids had seemed to enjoy it so much. 

Last year I bemoaned that there weren’t enough funny parts for the female cast, so it was brilliant to see that the girls playing the Lost Boys had a some great lines.

There are 2 things that set Whitley Bay apart from other pantos we’ve been to. First is that the theatre and show is really family friendly. There aren’t really any innuendo or political jokes that would go over kids’ heads. We went to a 4pm showing on a Saturday and it was full of families with younger children. The seating is pretty generous so you don’t feel too hemmed in and there is room in case little kids want to stand up or fidget a bit without imposing too much on people around you. Little bladders meant there is was fair bit of movement in the aisles which could be irritating if you have older children who can settle for longer periods of time, but for me it's the opposite. I feel more relaxed knowing that everyone is in the same boat so I don’t need to stress too much if my kids end up needing a few loo trips.

My other favourite thing about Whitley Bay pantos is the sing-a-long at the very end. Both years we’ve been they’ve finished with a medley of songs that the audience has been encouraged to sing and dance along to. This year in tribute to Anthony Costa it was a three song Blue megamix and I think over half of the audience were on their feet. It always finishes the panto on such a high with a great atmosphere. 

I feel like I can’t write a review about this panto without commenting on some of the bits I found problematic which revolved around the portrayal of Native Americans. Of course Peter Pan was written over 100 years ago, and it’s the story of a young boy’s imagination BUT I think there are ways which you could tell the story in a more sensitive way than this panto pulled off. There were elements which made me uncomfortable, such as the way the cast dressed as ‘Indians’ spoke and sung. To me it felt like an outdated portrayal of a minority group. I know there is a fine line in panto, much of which is based on stereotypes, and in this case the story which was written in a very different time, but I think more thought and sensitivity would have been more in keeping with a 2018 show. 

I feel like I’ve been quite negative in this post, but despite some of the points I’ve made we had a lovely time. I actually think this panto is one of the best options in the North East for younger children. It’s not as expensive as some of the others, the show wasn’t scary, doesn’t include jokes they wouldn’t understand, and the theatre is well set up for them.  

Our show last 2.5 hours including interval. 

Show is on until 5th January 2019.

Playhouse

Whitley Bay playhouse is pretty easy to get to. There is a small free car park outside, which was full by the time we got there, but there is plenty of off street car parking and quite a bit of that is free too. It’s about 10 minutes walk from Monkseaton Metro station.

SCORES ON THE PANTO DOORS

The kids gave this a 10 out of 10 whilst the more grinch like parents scored it 6.

TICKETS

Tickets are available from here

Ticket prices range between £15-£26. (A special family showing on 4th January 2019 has all ticketes priced at £15 each).