Peter Pan - Learn to Fly
  • By Tom King
  • |
  • 15th Aug 2011
  • |
  • ★★★★

I’m upside down, the blood’s rushing to my head and I’m swinging madly like some sort of unwieldy pendulum. And it’s amazing.Cut to one hour earlier and, queueing to go into this new production of J. M. Barrie’s classic, I’m wondering what to expect. I enter the huge Out of the Blue drill hall and am met by a large, black stage surrounded by scaffolding. No set, and few props, but then Angels Aerials don’t need them. Because they can fly.As you might guess from the name, the unique selling point of this version of Peter Pan is that the majority of the action takes place in mid-air, the actors suspended from the roof. It’s amazing how much this adds to the experience. When a Pirates/Lost-boys duel spans not only the breadth but also the height and depth of the stage it starts to look really special and Angels Aerials are so practised that never does this ambitious technical work interrupt the action on stage. Carabiners are connected and disconnected smoothly and carefully as the performers take off and land in mid-step.That’s not to say that the ground-bound action is boring. Touches like the acrobatic swordfights or a delightfully weird ballerina crocodile keep the plot fresh and interesting. And Angels also pull no punches for children of a nervous disposition, Susanne Beschorner is by turns slapstick and sinister as Captain Hook and had quite a few of the children on the first row (along with me, in the third) quaking in their boots when she first appeared on stage.I have a few minor niggles. This adaptation inevitably focuses on the flying parts of the tale and so the story itself gets somewhat lost. And, churlish as it is to say, the fact that English is the company’s second language can make some of the dialogue a little hard to follow. These are relatively small problems, but could confuse younger children who don’t know the story. For those that know the gist though, it’s a new and original take.But what makes this production really special is the flying workshop afterwards. Here, a lucky few kids (and grown-ups) can experience the magic first-hand, strapped into a harness and catapulted around the stage by the Angels crew. They’ll plummet, they’ll swoop, they’ll soar and walk up walls. They’ll never forget it. And after my first twenty-foot drop and swoop, neither will I.This is unlike any childrens theatre I’ve ever seen, especially at the Fringe. The workshop adds so much to the experience so, if you can, pay the extra five pounds and get involved. You won’t regret it.

Reviews by Tom King

Summerhall

A Fortunate Man

★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

The Cat's Mother

★★★
The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4

Phill Jupitus: Sassy Knack

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Nigel Slater’s Toast

★★★
CanadaHub @ King's Hall in association with Summerhall

Famous Puppet Death Scenes

★★★★
Assembly George Square Gardens

Jess Robinson: No Filter

★★★★

The Blurb

Magic! Sword fighting! A dancing crocodile? A breathtaking aerial adaptation of J.M. Barries classic. Angels Aerials make their audience want to fly… And they can in a workshop after the show! More information at www.leithonthefringe.com.