Peter Pan/Malvern Theatres

COLOUR by the bucketful, songs that raise the rafters… everything’s shipshape under Captain Hook’s command.

Except for one thing. And that’s the wretched Neverbird which periodically flutters into view and spoils things with a stream of limp panto gags and other time-wasting distractions.

These persistently take you out of the magical zone that’s vital to preserve in order to stay true to J M Barrie’s tale of everlasting youth and innocence.

And this is where Anne Dalton has gone wrong in an otherwise creditable adaptation. And you can’t help thinking that Ms Dalton - the producer, director, writer, composer and lyricist of this piece – would have benefited from the scrutiny and second opinion that another person’s input might have afforded.

It’s not only because the panto atmosphere just doesn’t sit right on a stifling August night. Peter Pan taps into that recurring Victorian theme of eternal youth and the Neverbird’s interruptions remind you of the irritating presence of a small child who wants to stay up with the adults long after their bedtime has passed.

That said, Elliott Hanna’s Peter Pan effortlessly holds the audience’s attention as he flits across parallel universes with ease. And Georgia Chadwick is perfect as Wendy, who would be ideal love interest material were it not for the fact that Master Pan will never start shaving, let alone be capable of anything else.

Jack Brown as Smee struggles with a lame script which is a pity, because Hook’s whipping boy should get some good lines. Meanwhile Chanel Fulton’s Tinker Bell glides through eternity trying to decide whether or not she should be a good or a bad fairy.

As for Hook himself, David Thomas roars and booms like a ship’s cannon throughout, leaving us in no doubt that he’s the villain.

The designs leave much to be desired. Hook’s pirate ship is an integral feature of the story, yet his vessel is little more than a badly drawn daub that sails into view far too late in the show.

Barrie’s original story has regularly been given the full panto treatment but too many daft costumes and corny gags spoil the fantasy. In this case, a further problem is the tepid, minimalist choreography, much of it little higher than school hall standard.

Peter Pan runs at Malvern Theatres until Sunday (August 26).

John Phillpott