Review: Peter Pan, Park Theatre
- Credit: Archant
A dark, invenntive but uneven take on JM Barrie’s original play
Staging classics often results in directors embracing ever-new concepts at the cost of the work’s original subtleties. Director Jonathan O’Boyle celebrates the magic of J. M. Barrie’s 1904 stage play of Peter Pan while simultaneously jazzing it up with street lingo, trance music and a set that is a mish-mash of techno and homely. It’s an odd fusion that doesn’t quite gel.
With a cast of eight and a small stage, O’Boyle makes some inventive choices.
Wooden slats cover the stage and clever lighting suggests events happening out of sight: the crocodile looming in the gloom, Tinkerbell as a darting light, Pirates plotting.
When the crocodile strikes, slats are pulled up to form a rickety puppet. Nanna is conjured out of a pile of leaves into a wonderfully realized dog with a headlamp face. There’s also some ingenious flying that’s thrillingly close to the audience and cosmic scenery that illuminates into a rainbow of techni-colour when Wendy and siblings fly.
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The mix of idioms can be awkward. ‘I’m sweet,’ says streetwise Peter when he teaches Wendy to think happy thoughts so she can fly.
A scene in which Wendy sews Peter’s shadow back onto him is accompanied by vaguely sexual noises; it’s not funny.
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The second half is slack. Wendy’s superiority as a girl in this boys’ world is highlighted by the endearingly soppy antics of the Lost Boys, but any sense of girl-power is overwhelmed by the traditional message.
Still, there are some excellent performances. Nickcolia King-N’Da as a handsomely boyish Peter is convincingly naïve when Wendy [Rosemary Boyle - delightful] attempts to teach him that a kiss is not simply the gift of a thimble.
In a leather trench coat, galoshes and plenty of eyeliner Alexander Vlahos as Hook channels Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. Snarling and sniping at gormless sidekick Smee [Natalie Grady doing a stalwart Northern accent pantomime performance], he made children cluster together and one burst into tears in the balcony. Harveeen Mann stands out as Tootles and Liza the cleaner.
A dark, uneven take which nevertheless honours the depth and magic of the original.