Peter Pan

This offering of Peter Pan from the American High School Theatre Festival never reaches the heights of the Second Star to the Right. It’s more on level with the first molehill on the left. This Canadian offering attempts to blend JM Barrie and Disney with puppets, but it unfortunately fizzles out very early on.

When the puppets and human characters start mashing against each other in fight scenes reminiscent of Punch and Judy or the Potter Puppet Pals, all pretence of puppeteering and acting is lost.

I don’t want to belittle the effort that these young Canadian students must have put in. Travelling across the Atlantic to perform alongside big names at the Edinburgh Fringe must have been intimidating enough in itself and all the performers should be commended therefore just for making it this far. Nevertheless, I cannot recommend this show to paying audiences.

There is not a great deal of variation in the delivery of the lines. More often than not they sound exactly the same and within the monotone there seems to be a lack of understanding as to what some of Barrie’s inherent wit actually means. Add to this the fact that the puppeteers often had conversations with themselves as two ‘different’ characters and things became terribly confusing for all those watching.

The puppets themselves are designed fairly nicely, but are rather on the small side. They also lack controls for anything other than the head. Thus the puppeteers use their own hands in place of those of the puppet and the resulting effect was more like children playing with toys rather than puppeteering. As a kid’s show, this could have been a charming and quaint directorial decision to encompass Barrie’s overall theme of ‘play-acting’, but I feel like it probably wasn’t. When the puppets and human characters start mashing against each other in fight scenes reminiscent of Punch and Judy or the Potter Puppet Pals, all pretence of puppeteering and acting is lost.

Of the few children in the theatre, one seemed reasonably engaged, though she took a nap against her mother midway through. One small boy decided to abandon all subtlety and stretch out on the entire front row of seats instead of watching. The remaining girl seemed more interested in her Cinderella doll. The decision to play the Disney Peter Pan songs during scene changes was probably to encourage child engagement but didn’t really work. I did enjoy the use of a laser pen for Tinker Bell however, even if the audience were not overly enthusiastic about bringing her back to life with their clapping.

Hopefully the cast and crew have at least enjoyed their time in Edinburgh. Perhaps in years to come, they will return with bigger and better shows and can look back fondly on that time when they were young and messed around with Peter Pan dolls at the Fringe.

Reviews by James Beagon

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

A mischievous boy who never grows up takes three ordinary children on an exciting adventure in Neverland. With the help of Tinker Bell and the Lost Boys, the children learn to fly, make friends with Indians, battle pirates, swim with mermaids, and bring fairies to life – all in one night! Bring your happy thoughts and be prepared to be swept away by the magic of Peter Pan. This enchanting and adventurous tale is brought to you by puppets designed by Noreen Young (Under the Umbrella Tree) and built by the students of ADHS.

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