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Review: Ipswich Regent Theatre pantomime Peter Pan, starring Darren Day and Matt Lapinskas and featuring songs by Katy Perry and Harry Styles





Following the success of Aladdin last year, a jam-packed Suffolk pantomime got off to a strong start at its opening performance on Friday.

Featuring West End veteran Darren Day and EastEnders star Matt Lapinskas as the titular hero, Peter Pan is the 11th panto by Enchanted Entertainment to grace the Ipswich Regent Theatre – and while it may be one of the best entries in years, it also lacks a festive flair.

Clocking in at around two-and-a-half hours, the panto is on the longer side, but manages to cut just short of overstaying its welcome.

Peter Pan at the Ipswich Regent Theatre opened on Friday. Picture: Enchanted Entertainment
Peter Pan at the Ipswich Regent Theatre opened on Friday. Picture: Enchanted Entertainment

Audiences are given ample opportunity to tap their feet or sing along to chart-toppers by Harry Styles and Katy Perry, and the show does a good job of involving the audience in the fun, primarily as the butt of jokes.

This year’s play was co-written by returning comedian Mike McClean, who appears as Mr Smee.

He and Gavin Ashbarry, this year’s Dame, playing the role of his mother, Mrs Smee, have good chemistry and bounce off each other well.

Peter Pan features a good cast of characters. Picture: Enchanted Entertainment
Peter Pan features a good cast of characters. Picture: Enchanted Entertainment

No pantomime would be complete without giving the Dame a chance to crank up the camp, and this year may contain some of the most outlandish costumes the theatre has seen, including comically-giant fake breasts, dressing up as a Christmas present and – I’m not joking – a tin of baked beans.

Not all of the jokes land, and some are just plain unfunny, but when they do hit, they score a home-run.

By far the strongest performance was Darren Day as Captain Hook, who really brought the campy performance to its zenith.

EastEnders star Matt Lapinskas portrays Peter Pan. Picture: Enchanted Entertainment
EastEnders star Matt Lapinskas portrays Peter Pan. Picture: Enchanted Entertainment

Instead of the traditional villain opening music, he would enter with George Thorogood and the Destroyers’ Bad to the Bone – a welcome addition.

His introductory scene saw him slowly walking through the audience to give them ample opportunity to boo and hiss.

Ipswich’s own Eliza Walker, for whom the panto was her first major gig, also gives a strong performance.

Her chemistry with Matt Lapinskas, who played Peter Pan, left a little to be desired, but there were no glaring issues with either performance. Neither flubbed their lines and are both strong singers.

The panto features Ipswich's own Eliza Walker as Wendy. Picture: Enchanted Entertainment
The panto features Ipswich's own Eliza Walker as Wendy. Picture: Enchanted Entertainment

The Christmas part of the pantomime was very much on the back-bench this year, and left it feeling a little flat overall.

It does contain similar elements to the last time Peter Pan graced the cinema several years ago, but manages to be different enough to remain fresh.

Unfortunately, though, there is no scene of Peter flying through the audience as there was last time, which left me feeling a little disappointed.

There is, however, an impressive gymnastics scene, which comedian Mike McClean claimed was among his favourite parts in a post-show interview.

This is Enchanted Entertainment's 11th panto at the Ipswich Regent. Picture: Enchanted Entertainment
This is Enchanted Entertainment's 11th panto at the Ipswich Regent. Picture: Enchanted Entertainment

Mess-ups were common during the show, and resulted in some of the best jokes in the entire show, as well as its most entertaining portions.

They were handled well, and it became difficult to tell which ones were scripted and which ones were genuine.

Such mess-ups also tended to be the best received parts of the show by the audience.

Pantomime is a medium that relies on strong audience engagement, and the crowd formed one of the weakest parts of the entire show.

The script was co-written by Mike McClean. Picture: Enchanted Entertainment
The script was co-written by Mike McClean. Picture: Enchanted Entertainment

Described as a ‘staring contest’ by members of the cast, they didn’t respond well to prompts in the beginning, which resulted in them becoming the butt of more jokes.

However, they did get better as the show went on.

The best bit of Regent pantos is the bit after the end of the main show, when children are brought onto the stage.

Through this, McClean provided a good 10 to 15 minutes of entertainment, although the children did, understandably, seem a little shy.

The panto comes a little short of overstaying its welcome. Picture: Enchanted Entertainment
The panto comes a little short of overstaying its welcome. Picture: Enchanted Entertainment

The humour of the show tended to lean more in on the toilet humour side, with less adult-focused humour than you’d typically expect.

True to form, there were jokes about Norfolk, jabs at both Matt Hancock and Liz Truss, and even one about Harry Kane missing a penalty.

However, there were no big one-liners that stick with you long after the show has ended, which was disappointing.

While Peter Pan won’t convert anyone with a strong dislike of pantomime, it does provide an entertaining few hours of fun.

I find it very difficult to reviews pantos as them being bad by design is often part of the charm, and the humour.

It does contain everything a panto should have, although doesn’t break any new ground, but I left feeling satisfied.

I am one of these people with a dislike of pantomime, so the strongest praise I can give it is that it was good.

Peter Pan will run through until December 31, with matinee and evening performances.

Tickets are available to book via the Ipswich Theatres website.

Have you seen Peter Pan? What were your thoughts? Let us know in the comments.