Rumbustious, fast, furious and funny, yet full of magic and fairy dust, Wendy and Peter Pan will delight all ages: an awfully big adventure and the perfect Christmas show. It is also a new version of J M Barrie’s well-loved play, adapted by Ella Hickson and directed by Eleanor Rhode, which re-imagines gender roles (the swopping round of names in the title is no typing mistake) and also re-interprets the theme of "Lost Boys", the theme of mortality adding poignancy and depth.
Rumbustious, fast, furious and funny, yet full of magic and fairy dust: an awfully big adventure and the perfect Christmas show.
Swashbuckling pirates, fighting or, to our surprise, dancing; at times the frenetic action literally bursts out of the stage into the auditorium. Loud punchy music by composer Michael John McCarthy, and a set designed by Max Johns cleverly provides slides and a trampoline to evoke a playground, reflecting the theme of endless game-playing. The slapstick and pratfalls (especially the particularly hilarious performance by Dorian Simpson as Smee) and lavatory humour had the 7 year olds near me squealing with laughter, almost falling off their seats with joy, while the more sophisticated 10 year old appreciated the technical wizardry of the stage-craft from flying to surprise appearances.
Wendy (a strong performance by Isobel McArthur) does not want to be a damsel or a button sewer but instead to fight pirates... and wow, she does just that with great gusto. Tink is no longer a mere dancing light but a wonderful, in-yer-face fairy, played by Sally Reid with hands on hips, feet akimbo, ever up for a ‘radge’ (and wearing a hilarious costume designed by Max Johns). Tiger Lily (Bonnie Baddoo) is also a feisty character and their descent on a large swing at the height of a battle is a terrific celebration of Girl Power, the cheers bringing the house down.
Captain Hook is played with nice ironic humour by Gyuri Sarossy, providing much for the audience's obligatory boos and "He's behind you" panto routines, though he and the croc are not too scary for the wee ones. There are sly remarks for the adults to appreciate too. Listen out for when Mr Darling realizes it is time to give his elder son a talk about women!
A critique of male stereotypes is also humourously touched on. John (a strong performance by George Naylor) says "Boys are supposed to be disgusting" and Mr Darling's invocation to him, "Be a Man", is nicely challenged by his hugging his other son, Michael (well played by Cristian Ortega), who likes flowers and is thrilled to be a Mermaid in Neverland. Peter Pan, played by Ziggy Heath as the sort of active leader whose team you would want to be in, is given a new and effective back-story of sadness.
One of the most memorable scenes is when Peter and Wendy climb up ladders to face each other against a stunning backdrop of blue, studded with twinkling gold stars; it provides a much needed still point. Peter meditates on whether forgetting or remembering the past is better; for a moment, they almost kiss as Wendy leans forward, but Peter, of course, still thinks a kiss is a thimble and turns away, the writer cleverly linking growing up with facing mortality.
There is no Nanny Dog but she's barely missed. We have to wait for the flying, essential to this show, but when it comes it is ecstatic! You may well believe in fairies by the end of this delightful show.