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Ian Waller and his family enjoy a magical night full of wonderful performances

Surely it’s only a matter of time before we hear, “Arise Sir Andy Ford, for services to pantomime, laughter and keeping Bristol smiling!” There are so many great performances in this year’s Bristol Hippodrome festive showpiece, but this Bristol legend outshines the lot!

Panto time in Bristol is always a family treat and they just don’t get many bigger, brighter or better than those at the good old Bristol Hippodrome. This year, it’s Peter Pan with guest stars aplenty including David Suchet as Hook, Faye Tozer from Steps as Mimi The Mermaid, Andy Ford as Smee and Ceri Dupree as Mrs Smee, plus a supporting cast that sparkles with talent.

Peter Pan (Hugo Rolland) and Hoot (David Suchet) (Mark Dawson Photography)

Right from the start the packed audience of eager children and just as eager grown-ups are transported off to the magical world of Peter Pan (Hugo Rolland), Tinkerbell (Carly Joan Furlong) and the Darling children (Molly Farmer, Oliver John Folkard and Arlow Rees), all played with a charm and professionalism that belies their young ages.

The fun really kicks up a gear though with the arrival of Smee (Andy Ford) and his mum Mrs Mee (Ceri Dupree). Straight away this was panto gold, with Smee introducing himself as “Me being called Smee is like you lot being called Smyou!” and Mrs Smee describing herself as “Mutton dressed as ferrett!”

Mrs Smee (Ceri Dupree) and Smee (Andy Fo) (Mark Dawson Photography)

These two are the stars of the show – very funny, very rude, superb at picking on the audience and just a joy to watch. Andy Ford is, as any regular panto visitors will let you know, a Bristol Hipp regular and while it’s pretty much the same fair year on year, the thing is, it’s really very funny indeed.

Ceri Dupree, meanwhile, played the perfect panto dame, modelling the most outlandish outfits – “Do you like the outfit? It’s Armani. Salvation Armani,” although my favourite was, “This is my Brexit dress – you want me out of it but when I am, you’re not quite sure!”

Mimi The Mermaid (Faye Tozer) (Mark Dawson Photography)

And then there’s Lord Sir David Suchet himself, surely too much a stage darling to lower himself to panto! Not at all, her is wonderful, ignoring his 77 years to mince, threaten, dance and be the brunt of any number of jokes with wonderful aplomb.

Plus, there’s that Faye Tozer from Steps, as Mimi The Mermaid and the excuse for any number of Steps songs plugs, as well as the best of musical and dance scenes.

Together these four are top, top, top class. In fact, one of the very best set pieces has the four of them on stage together singing about the 12 discoveries from their shipwrecked ship, with enough silliness, stumbling, daftness and quality to last until next Christmas.

OK, to be completely honest, at times the script wasn’t as sharp as previous years and the appearance in the second half of a certain little Belgian detective just didn’t work, with the children in the audience having no idea who he was! Even so, we loved it – singalongs, dancing, clapping, cheers, ‘Oh no you don’ts’ and all – and that was just the grown-ups!

So for a family Christmas treat was more than a sprinkle of all-star magic, head along to the Bristol Hippodrome and enjoy Peter Pan. You’ll love it!

Peter Pan at the Bristol Hippodrome runs until 31 December 2023. For more details and to book tickets, click here.