"Grow up, mature, and come back when you have something to contribute!" It's not the most sympathetic way to address a young audience; nevertheless, it succinctly shows us the 'eat or be eaten' attitude of Eric (Lennart Monaster), who is one of five business-suited adults suddenly dropped into a strange world of bedside furniture and night-lights in this production of Expedition Peter Pan. Plus, as in the best pantomimes, it ensures a loud, fervent response—and not just from the children!
Adults reclaiming the joy of playtime is certainly at the heart of this piece.
Netherland's own Het Langland theatre company are by no means the first to play with J M Barrie's near-mythical 'boy who never grew up', Peter Pan; nor are they they alone in seemingly bypassing any need to even name-check Great Ormond Street Hospital (to whom creator J M Barrie gifted the rights to the character), let alone pay any royalties. Thankfully, though, they're also rare in actually focusing on the sense of fun in the original, rather than the cloying sweetness that attracted Steven Spielberg with his own take of a grown-up Peter Pan rediscovering his childhood.
That said, adults reclaiming the joy of playtime is certainly at the heart of this piece: along with Monaster’s Eric, we have overwhelmed working mother Paula (Aafke Buringh), the self-doubting Thomas (Gijs Nollen), banker Martin (Folmer Overdiep) who had all his childhood dreams shattered, and Caroline (Kim Berkenhagen), who is forever overcompensating for being "too young". In the course of the show's 75 minutes, all five gradually, fantastically succumb to childhood—from the initial unexplained lego bricks, pirate cutlasses, marbles and paper aeroplanes, to a full-scale pirate adventure where Thomas just doesn't get the idea of being dead.
Director Inèz Derksen and co-creator Christian Schönfelder have undoubtedly created a show with genuinely wide appeal: for the adults, there's the warm nostalgia of childhood fun and games; for children, the never-grows-old spectacle of supposed 'grown ups' not acting their age. Importantly, though, the cast certainly don’t hold back – as the men's sweat-stained shirts testify – and, combined with a bold soundtrack, they fully deserve their near-standing ovation at the end.