All New Adventures Of Peter Pan brings faces familiar and fresh to York Theatre Royal panto with Evolution Productions

Putting the ‘new’ in All New Adventures Of Peter Pan: York Theatre Royal debutants Jason Battersby (Peter Pan) and Maddie Moate (Tinkerbell) on stage at the pantomime launch. Picture: Anthony Robling

REHEARSALS for All New Adventures Of Peter Pan will start on November 7 but already York Theatre Royal’s cast members have met up to launch the third pantomime collaboration with Evolution Productions.

In attendance for a photo-session and chat over sandwiches and brownies were Paul Hawkyard and Robin Simpson, last year’s award-nominated ugly sister double act Manky and Mardy; Faye Campbell, their fellow returnee from Cinderella, and two faces new to the Theatre Royal panto ranks, CBeebies’ Maddie Moate and Jason Battersby, promoted from Lead Shadow in Wendy And Peter at Leeds Playhouse last Christmas to Peter Pan this winter.

Absent that day was Jonny Weldon, a comedy video-making social media sensation with a “little part” in House Of The Dragon, who will play Starkey.

Hawkyard and Simpson had just finished Harrogate Theatre’s HT Rep season of three plays in three weeks, Simpson appearing in all three, Abigail’s Party, Gaslight and Men Of The World; Hawkyard in the first and last.

Caught on the hook: Paul Hawkyard’s Captain Hook, “the all-time best baddie”. Picture: Anthony Robling

“Robin and I have worked together before, for Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre in York, sharing a dressing room from the day we started. We get on well, we have a laugh, and it’ll be great working with my mate again,” says Paul, who is delighted to be playing Captain Hook.

“As soon as I found out they were doing Peter Pan here, I really wanted the part because he’s one of the all-time best baddies.”

Tall, imposing, but naturally comedic too, Paul is playing around with ideas, probably not entirely seriously. “I’m going to switch the hook from arm to arm, to see if anyone notices!” he says.

Rather more definitely, he adds: “There’ll be lots of comedy opportunities together with Robin.”

Maddie chips in: “I think people just enjoy seeing friendships, partnerships, on stage. People like that familiarity in panto.” Faye concurs: “If we’re having fun, the audience will have fun too.”

“It’s Smee!”: Or, rather, it’s Mrs Smee, the specially created dame’s role for Robin Simpson in All New Adventures Of Peter Pan. Picture: Anthony Robling

Robin may have worked flat out on HT Rep, rehearsing the next play from Wednesday to Saturday in the daytime before performing in the evening, but he has had no time to rest. Already he is hitting his straps in rehearsals at the Central Methodist Church for David Reed’s play Guy Fawkes ahead of its York Theatre Royal premiere from October 28 to November 12.

Come panto-time, he will be playing Mrs Smee, effectively the dame’s role in these All New Adventures, written by Evolution’s Paul Hendy and directed by Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster.

Not Mrs Darling, Robin? “As far as I’m aware, I’ll be Mrs Smee, though there’s still time to change that! The character is normally Smee, the pirate, Hook’s mate. Now it will be Mrs Smee and a sidekick, Starkey.”

Like Simpson, Faye Campbell will be completing a hattrick of Theatre Royal-Evolution pantos after her fairy in 2020’s Travelling Panto and title role in 2021’s Cinderella. “I’m playing Emily, who’s Wendy’s daughter, so it’s moved on in time from J M Barrie’s original story. Now it’s Emily who goes on the adventures, after hearing of the story of Peter Pan from her mother,” she says.

Maddie Moate, who follows Andy Day from the CBeebies team into the Theatre Royal panto, says: “For those who love the traditional story of Peter Pan, you will still meet Peter Pan, Hook, the Lost Boys, the crocodile. They won’t be disappointed. It will all be instantly recognisable,” she says.

Welcome back Faye Campbell: Returning to the York Theatre Royal pantomime for a third year, cast as Wendy Darling’s feistier daughter, Emily. Picture: Anthony Robling

“I’ll be playing Tinkerbell, after I played Fairy Phoenix, the good fairy, at Leicester De Montford Hall last year, who was a bit of a nerd, a fairy in training!”

Jason Battersby took a deep dive into JM Barrie’s world when researching his role as Lead Shadow at Leeds Playhouse. “I love the book and the way you can tell it’s written for children but from an intellectual viewpoint,” he says, as he turns his attention to leading the Theatre Royal show as Peter Pan. “It’s almost like it was written by an incredibly clever child.

“As I know from last year, there are so many different ways to tell the story, and it’s one of those stories where you can really bring your own thing to it. All New Adventures Of Peter Pan is completely different from Wendy And Peter. Different theatrical conventions. Different songs. Different characters.

“There’s a line in the book that says Peter Pan takes children who die to Neverland, so there are darker elements to him, but he’s never a character who’s set in stone. There are suggestions in the book, so you can play him dark, or you can play him for his childish, playful qualities, but, yes, he has some demons.

“Sometimes, some of those darker elements are not the ones you want to put in, and certainly I don’t want to play sad Peter Pan. That would be the wrong choice.”

All New Adventures Of Peter Pan will run at York Theatre Royal from December 2 to January 2 2023. Box office: 01904 623568 or

High-flying Jason Battersby to hit the heights in panto bow in All New Adventures Of Peter Pan at York Theatre Royal

Jason Battersby: Actor, dancer, singer and now York Theatre Royal pantomime star

THE actor, singer and dancer who will play the title role in All New Adventures Of Peter Pan at York Theatre Royal comes with “flight experience”, as this winter’s pantomime producer somewhat mysteriously puts it.

Jason Battersby will be taking one giant leap in his pantomime debut, but he is no stranger to the character of Peter, having appeared as the Lead Shadow last Christmas in Wendy And Peter at Leeds Playhouse, where he flew through the air as he shadowed the ever-boyish Peter.

Precisely what flights of imagination Jason will experience in the Paul Hendy-scripted Theatre Royal pantomime have yet to be revealed but definitely he will take to the air again.

Flying lessons for the Playhouse show will come in handy this winter too, although wondering if the pantomime will be working with single-line or double-line flying. Whichever system is used in York , the key to flying is the harness he must wear.

Jason Battersby, back right, playing the Lead Shadow in Wendy And Peter at Leeds Playhouse last winter

“It can be restricting,” he says. “When you rehearse you have all these ideas of what you want to do but then you put the harness on and realise you can’t do them. It can be painful too if you don’t quite put it on the right way.”

Before last winter’s appearance, Jason had neither read J M Barrie’s book nor watched the Disney film. He researched Peter and his creator Barrie for the Leeds show, in particular exploring the parallels between the character and the Scottish writer’s own life.

The Shadows were used at Leeds to represent the many facets of Peter’s complex personality: cocky, childish, curious, naïve, as Jason described the boy who never grew up. Now he is excited to be playing this fly-by-night in York.

“Pantomime is perfect for telling Peter’s story because he never stops playing,” he says. “It’s going to be wonderful to bring that to family audiences and have fun with it.”

As with Peter, there are many sides to Jason: actor, dancer, singer, songwriter and music producer, all by the age of 22. Such is the variety of his work so far that he has chalked up childhood roles in Macbeth, The Nutcracker and Waiting For Godot with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, plus numerous productions for Youth Music Theatre UK and National Youth Music Theatre, most notably performing Whistle Down The Wind in the presence of Prince Edward.

Jason Battersby in rehearsal for Wendy And Peter at Leeds Playhouse

This summer has been spent starring in the musical Crazy For You at Chichester Festival Theatre. While York Theatre Royal will mark his pantomime debut, he did appear in Santa Claus The Musical, a show with pantomime elements, when he was seven, having started ballet classes some years before.

Two years later, he was training with the Royal Ballet School and when he turned 11 he faced a difficult choice. “You have to decide at quite an early age if you want to be a ballet dancer and continue with that training,” he says. “I thought ‘yes, it’s something I enjoy’ but I’d never really wanted to focus on one specific aspect of performance.”

Ballet was duly left behind in favour of acting and musical theatre, as well as pursuing his interest in making his own music. “At school, I had a bunch of friends who did music, and I was one of the boys in my school who could sing. Then I found I appreciated watching them write music and dove into that myself,” Jason says.

“I’ve always found writing your own songs very therapeutic. I feel as if I write them for myself and if other people listen that’s fine. Music for me is quite grounding. Communication for me has always been a little bit difficult and there’s something about writing lyrics I really like. Pop songs get right down to the root of what you say. I really enjoy being producing music where I am the creative force behind it, with no outside influence.”

Shadow play: Jason Battersby, left, with fellow cast members in the Leeds Playhouse rehearsal room for Wendy And Peter

When it comes to ambitions, Jason recalls as a young performer often being asked that same question: “What’s your dream role?”. He had a “really stupid” answer he used to fall back on:  “It’s anything I get paid for,” he would say.

Now he takes the question more seriously. “In this industry, it’s great to have ambitions and dreams but it’s far more important to be realistic and know that as actors we’re not constantly working,” he says.

Come November, he will be joined in the panto rehearsals by creative director Juliet Forster’s already confirmed cast members for the third collaboration between York Theatre Royal and Evolution Productions: CBeebies’ Mandie Moate in her first pantomime as feisty fairy Tinkerbell; social media sensation Jonny Weldon as Starkey; Faye Campbell as Elizabeth Darling and fellow returnees Paul Hawkyard as Captain Hook and Robin Simpson as Mrs Darling after last winter’s Ugly Sisters double act, Mardy and Manky.

All New Adventure Of Peter Pan will run at York Theatre Royal from December 2 to January 2. Box office: 01904 623568 or

The poster for All New Adventures Of Peter Pan at York Theatre Royal