Underneath a Magical Moon, Jackson’s Lane, review: ‘Expertly crafted and charming’

Tutti Frutti's Underneath a Magical Moon. Picture: Brian Slater

Tutti Frutti's Underneath a Magical Moon. Picture: Brian Slater - Credit: Archant

The play’s message to children that imagination can help transcend any situation is heartening.

Mike Kenny is one of the UK’s leading writers of theatre for young people. His Railway Children won him an Olivier and his latest play - a reworked Peter Pan set in a modest suburban home – is an expertly crafted and charming piece of physical theatre.

In Tutti Frutti’s production there’s a cast of three, ukulele playing in abundance along with a dazzling use of a ladder and some flowerpots, all of which brings a magical meta-theatrical world vividly to life.

Cleverly updating the story so it’s told from Wendy’s point of view, she’s presented here as a dreamer who imagines blue lagoons and moonbeams through the window of the suburban house she shares with her mum and two brothers. The power of imagination becomes a key feature.

By telling stories the children can escape their everyday routines. Wendy tells her brothers the story of Peter Pan and the play flits between the narrative of their camp-out one summer night in their back yard to the traditional tale.

The cast plays multiple parts and there are some canny variations on the original characterization. Hook appears as a funky Hispanic rapper while Mr. Smee is a toadying member of his not-so-cool gang. As mermaids, the trio channels The Three degrees using sleeping bags that unravel inventively into glittery fish tails. Songs are vivid and varied from soul to funk to African beats and dreamy lullabies.

Soul number Mermaid Lagoon is a highlight as is the crocodile’s funky Tick Tock. There is some impressive slow-mo choreography and amusing slapstick comedy though a few more laugh-out-loud moments would have been welcome and helped gloss over the excess of transitions between the two timelines. Also the meta-theatrical game playing may confuse some of the audience’s younger members.

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But the magic will impress throughout, especially the way Tinkberbell lights up the stage as a tiny golden globule tossed between cast members.

The play’s message to children that imagination can help transcend any situation and anything can happen under a magical moon is heartening. Predictable domesticity ebbs away, albeit for a dreamy hour. Very appealing.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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