Showing at the RSC Stratford-upon-Avon until 2nd March
Although terribly clichéd and perhaps a bit obvious considering the story we’re talking about here, there is, I believe, only one word which aptly sums up Ella Hickson’s brilliant adaptation of ‘Wendy and Peter Pan’ – magical. It’s not very often that a play manages to hold an audience’s undivided attention for almost three hours. Yet, ‘Wendy and Peter Pan’ makes it seem barely a fraction of this time, with the help of an incredibly gifted cast, heart-warming dialogue, and more than a smattering of fairy dust.
Looking around the packed out theatre and seeing the vast array of different ages gasping in unison as the cast soar above the stage on high wires, chuckling at perfectly timed punchlines or holding their breath as Peter and Wendy lean in for the kiss – the real one – just goes to show it is indeed possible to create a world in which children, teens and adults can, all at once, lose themselves. The attention to design and mechanics in creating beds that float up into the air, a floor which lifts to reveal the Lost Boys’ underground home, and a Jolly Roger which sails both eerily and magnificently onto set, makes this play a visual masterpiece in itself.
However, as the inverted title suggests, the play sets out not only to mesmerize and excite, but to offer an alternative interpretation of J. M. Barrie’s tale of The Boy who Wouldn’t Grow Up. Here, the spirited and gutsy Wendy claims new levels of empowerment, refusing to meekly accept her appointed role as mother to the Lost Boys. Fiona Button’s vibrant and energetic performance leaves audiences struck with admiration, whilst the parallel playing-out of Mr and Mrs Darling’s clashes against the backdrop of the Suffragette movement evokes frustration on behalf of Wendy and her mother, trying to extricate themselves from their traditional roles.
Regardless, these serious and thought-provoking themes certainly don’t detract from the play’s overall light-hearted and entertaining tone. Sam Swann’s poised and quick-witted portrayal of Peter balances the mischievous with the vulnerable perfectly, meaning we can both laugh and cry for this impish boy, and the feisty and assertive Tink (Charlotte Mills), while sometimes in danger of verging on the pantomime-y, provides yet more wit and humour.
All in all, the audience participation, theatre glittering with fairy lights and superb music make this play an intense and enchanting experience. Not limited to the winter season, ‘Wendy and Peter Pan’ makes for entertaining viewing all year round!
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