Peter Pan (White Rock, Hastings) JohnnyFox January 1, 2017 Comedy, Musicals, Reviews, Theatre In the rankings of ‘provincial pantomimes’ Hastings shouldn’t score highly – except its White Rock Theatre, built as a 1066-seater (geddit?) concert hall in 1927 and run by the council, was recently transferred to Qdos whose carefully-grown list of managed regional theatres may one day rival ATG as a touring circuit. If ATG doesn’t swallow them whole. As the world’s largest producer of pantomime with over 600 already staged, Qdos has ready access to a stock of sets and costumes which rotate around its venues and deliver terrific production values for a £20 ticket. What it has done magnificently in this production of Peter Pan – is to field a cast of 24 with only a handful of professionals and an enthusiastic crew of local drama and dance students who deliver a cracking show with polish and enthusiasm and importantly without overselling it. Director Luke Sheppard and choreographer Damian Czarnecki deserve high praise for this – even if the raw choreography itself is basic jazz dance with lots of semaphore arms, these guys do it to the max and the feelgood factor is off the charts. The five named characters and four professional ensemble work exceptionally hard – Ben Watson carries the show as principal comedian and develops a first-rate rapport with and command of the audience, and Shaun Chambers is an articulate and subtly camp Hook who gets his comeuppance from one of the cleverest pieces of audience participation I’ve yet seen in a pantomime – and when he does get it, you’re almost sorry. At the centre of the show is popster Jaymi Hensley of, as the script has to keep reminding you, ‘Union J’ a boyband manufactured for series 9 of the X-Factor. Hensley’s a likeable enough chap, with a capable voice which is fine when he’s contractually permitted to sing (or maybe mime, I couldn’t quite tell) his familiar material but stretched when obliged to render vocals on a wire or a version of ‘You Raise Me Up’ that could set your teeth on edge. But he can’t act for toffee and has no stage presence so looks permanently awkward in the spotlight while awaiting every cue. Elsewhere there are crisp deliveries of much-loved routines including a tight version of Abbott and Costello’s ‘Who’s On First’ and the time-honoured slapstick of ‘If I Didn’t Work for Captain Hook a (insert profession) I would be’. Among the paid ensemble is Bird College student Zac Adlam and his twin younger ginger brothers Luke and Solly. Their enthusiasm and capabilities shine through especially in the dance routines, and if this isn’t another Strallen dynasty being freshly farmed on the South Coast, I’ll eat Nana.