When the Hall for Cornwall announced they were launching this year’s Christmas pantomime, Peter Pan, they meant it quite literally – with a chance to fly across the stage.

Never one to pass up a new experience, I donned my flying harness for an experience not many can say they’ve enjoyed, and was hoisted 20 feet above the Cornwall Playhouse stage for an unforgettable ten minutes of pure joy.

Back down to earth, I caught up with some of the cast of this year’s production backstage.

Ed Rowe, aka the Kernow King, is once again playing the pantomime baddie, Captain Hook.

It is his fifth Hall for Cornwall panto and the second year in a row he is playing a pirate, after taking on Long John Silver in Treasure Island last year, and he told the Packet he’s keen to put a different take on it.

“I think Long John Silver was quite a vicious, aggressive pirate. Captain Hook, I think he’s posher. Maybe just a bit more elegant; a bit more stylish.”

He believes pirates come naturally to him though, joking: “Us Cornish, we’re all pirates at heart!”

After five years, spending the run-up to Christmas on stage has become something of a festive tradition for him, and he explained what keeps him coming back: “It’s just a really good fun way of spending Christmas. It’s really hard work but also good fun.”

Falmouth Packet: Some of the cast of Peter Pan: Sara Markland as Tinker Bell, Jade Lauren as Wendy, Ollie McFarlane as Peter Pan and Ed Rowe as Captain HookSome of the cast of Peter Pan: Sara Markland as Tinker Bell, Jade Lauren as Wendy, Ollie McFarlane as Peter Pan and Ed Rowe as Captain Hook (Image: Emma Ferguson)

He revealed that the cast have surprisingly little time to prepare before opening night. When we met he hadn’t even seen the script, and rehearsals won’t begin until a mere two to three weeks before curtain up.

What’s his secret for such a gruelling schedule at such a busy time of the year anyway? “Eat healthily, sleep, take in vitamins and all that. As long as you’re doing that it’s not too bad.”

The show runs up to Christmas Eve, then it’s Christmas Day off for the cast before they’re back on stage for Boxing Day and through to New Year’s Eve.

One man counting down the days is Ollie McFarlane, a Falmouth University graduate who has been cast as the eponymous Peter Pan.

It’s his first show at the Hall for Cornwall where he’s been employed by the theatre, since graduating in 2019.

Growing up for a period overseas in South Africa, he would put on shows with the locals, introducing them to the concept of pantomime.

“They didn’t really get what panto was, but they got on with it anyway,” he recalled. “Panto is a distinctly British thing I think!”

Falmouth Packet: Lift offLift off (Image: Hugh Hastings)

He knew from a young age that acting was something he wanted to do as a career. Falmouth University gave him that opening and he hasn’t looked back.

He’s a big fan of Cornish theatre in particularly, explaining: “People are really up for trying things outside the box. It’s great.

“Everybody is really welcoming and the Hall for Cornwall is great in trialling new talent, people who are coming into the industry.

“Everyone gets together and swaps ideas; it’s a really collaborative place to be.”

Playing opposite him in the role of Wendy will be Jade Lauren, a newcomer to Cornwall although she is already a fan and hopes to see some of the sights while she is here.

The show’s pre-publicity describes her as a “self-assured Wendy” so can we expect a different take to Disney’s version? “At my audition they said, ‘Don’t play it overly sweet. You want to be like Peter Pan. You want to be doing all the fun things!’ “I grew up with my older brother and doing things he did, so it comes quite naturally to me,” she said.

“I’m just really excited to get started.”

She’s a big fan of smaller theatres, adding: “I love doing local theatre and getting to travel; it’s also the community feeling of them. It is good to have people coming who don’t have access to theatre otherwise.”

Falmouth Packet: Up and away! Up and away! (Image: Hall for Cornwall)

Taking on the traditional ‘fairy godmother’ role but with a twist is Sara Markland as Tinker Bell, Peter Pan’s fairy friend, who told me with a twinkle: “Why shouldn’t a middle-aged woman be friends with a gorgeous man? It’s that spirit of staying young, and being in this profession you have to be a child, you have to play and have a sense of adventure.”

With a long career in theatre behind her, training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and working extensively with the RSC, National Theatre Studio, Young Vic, Royal Court, in the West End and on national and international tours, Sara took a break from stage acting around a decade ago.

She started 2023 wanting an adventure – little realising this is how she would be finishing the year.

“I thought I’d be packing up a backpack and heading off to some far-flung country. I didn’t dream of it being a theatre job or that I’d end up in Cornwall! But it couldn’t be better.”


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Although she has been keeping busy with filming and voiceover work, she hasn’t been in a theatre role for ten years and is relishing the return.

“This is my time to fly!” she smiled.

The Cornwall Playhouse production of Peter Pan opens on December 4 and runs until December 31.

You can find out more about Peter Pan and buy tickets at https://hallforcornwall.co.uk/playhouse-tickets-shows/peter-pan/about-the-show where there are family pack discounts available until September 1, with the opportunity to pay over four monthly instalments.

Peter Pan is presented by arrangement with Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and Concord Theatricals Ltd, on behalf of Samuel French Ltd.