January 14 2017
Production is entertaining spectacle not afraid to challenge and subvert…
IMAGINATIVE, expansive and hugely enjoyable, the National Theatre’s production of “Peter Pan” is a great ride for adults and children alike.
It takes JM Barrie’s classic story of the boy who never grows up and makes a few twists along the way.
You can see just why Sally Cookson’s original sell-out show for the Bristol Old Vic was so successful and has now transferred to the Southbank in London.
It is a panto and isn’t – and continues until next month.
Saikat Ahamed almost steals the show as ‘Tinkerbell’ (with a comic invented language), but Paul Hilton’s ‘Peter Pan’ and Anna Francolini’s double-handed ‘Mrs Darling’ and ‘Captain Hook’ are the real stars along with Madeline Worrall’s ‘Wendy’.
There is plenty of diversity and colour blind casting in this show – Ekow Quartey is suitably comic when required as ‘Nana’, Wendy’s nurse, and quite the innocent, vulnerable child (despite his looming physical presence) as ‘Tooties’, a ‘Lost Boy’.
It all starts with the Darling family: loving, chaotic and all dreamers – including Mum (Francolini) and Dad (Felix Hayes).
Into this environment comes Peter Pan who leads Wendy and her brothers, Michael (John Plumojena) and John (Marc Antolin) to Neverland.
Here is a very divided world – on one side are the ‘Lost Boys’, children who have simply fallen out of prams and tumbled into Neverland and are searching for mother, and on the other is Captain Hook and her odious plans for world domination, starting with Neverland.
That Captain Hook is a woman and a potential mother (to the ‘Lost Boys) in this only adds to its allure. In the original play as conceived by Barrie, Mrs Darling and Captain Hook are supposed to be played by a woman.
Francolini is an excellently malevolent Captain Hook (and probably a little racy for those with a darker turn of mind in that area) – but she is a great foil for Pan and his boundless enthusiasm and passion for fun and flying – the actors do a great job and the whole system is operated through a pulley system with several other actors and some professionals being the counterweights.
Perhaps the first half isn’t as absorbing as the second – but in the fight between Hook and Pan, we see both the best of ourselves and the worst.
Hook is vain, selfish, scheming – ultimately, she wants power because she is insecure and wants to be able to determine the future – which adult doesn’t, at one level…?
On the other side is Pan, who is innocent fun and jaunty japes and cares not for the future or adulthood – live in the moment, for the moment, and share it with friends (he too, like the Lost Boys has no family), if only life was really like this and not bills, and responsibilities and worries about finances, and the fate of our youngest and oldest loved ones – the ultimate curse of most ‘just about managing’ adults in the modern age, surely.
A fantastic set design and a huge energy make this show what it is – a great night of entertainment and fun for both children and adults alike…and a chance for both to forget and escape the world outside – and believe in magic and dreams!
ACV rating: *** ½ (out of five)
All pictures: Steve Tanner for the National Theatre
Until February 4 – ‘Peter Pan’ By JM Barrie, directed by Sally Cookson (a co-production between the Bristol Old Vic and The National Theatre at the Olivier), Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PX
Box Office: 20 7452 3000
Just before Christmas we ran a competition offering a family ticket to see Peter Pan. Anil Varsani was our winner. If you want to know about more acv giveaways and competitions just make sure you like or are following us on FACEBOOK – see you on the other side!!