by Phil Wilmott music by Phil Willmott and Mark Collins.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 11 January.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat, Sun 3pm.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
then Charing Cross Theatre The Arches Villiers Street WC2N 6NL 13 January-15 February 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
TICKETS: 08444 930650.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 January.
Song, dance and philosophy amid the awfully big shadow of war..
Whether or not it turns out among the best in 2014’s Great War centenary events, Phil Willmott’s new musical (co-composed with Mark Collins) should finish ahead for originality, breadth of ideas and satisfying complexity – while throwing several good tunes into the mix.
At its centre is young George Llewelyn Davies, one of five brothers effectively adopted by Peter Pan author J M Barrie after their parents died in middle-age. Theirs was a tragic family, with George, chief progenitor of Peter Pan, the one whose death came in the Great War.
Steven Butler’s George begins with an open-faced authority, dealing with a trench-shocked soldier. But in the hour he sleeps before taking-over the soldier’s watch, such dreams come as combine Barrie with Pan characters in a swirl of hidden fears, anxieties and imaginings.
These can be fascinating – Tinker Bell becoming a conscience-torn woman, forced to sell her body to survive and finding she cannot sustain human emotions, Michael setting out in a sparky number for a gay life (he was the brother found drowned with his male lover).
The other musical highlight goes to John Darling with a witty number that leads to the heart of the piece, his confident guide to Jungian psychology. Here, in the shadow side of existence, is Captain Hook, back from the crocodile’s belly to loom in disguise over George’s life. There’s a lot of the human psyche’s shadow side in Peter Pan.
Alongside positive values; the Darling family dog Nana gives her offspring to save lives in the trenches (as patriotic dogs did). Over all looms the Great War, generated by the shadow within human minds; the boy who had to grow up finds how dark that can be.
Not every song’s a winner, and moments of smiling singing seem unapt, while the first act finale’s rousing advance towards battle needs to be seen within the piece’s overall ironies. But there’s impressive choreography and lively action astonishing with a large cast on a small stage. Whether it will wither or bloom when it transfers to a larger space we will soon be able to see.
Captain George Llewellyn Davies/Peter Pan: Steven Butler.
Wendy Darling: Grace Gardner.
Lost Boy 1/Michael Darling: Joseph Taylor.
Lost Boy Curly/John Darling: Richard James-King.
Lost Boy Slightly: David Scotland.
Lost Boy Nibs: Luka Markus.
Lost Boy Twin 2.Lost Wife Mabel: Lauren Cocoracchio.
Lost Boy Tootles: Max Panks.
Lost Wife Cissie/Tiger Lilly: Natalie Lipin.
Lost Wife Lady Edith: Hannah Grace.
Lost Wife Gwendolyn/Tinker Bell: Joanna Woodward.
Mr Darling/Captain Hook: Andrew C Wadsworth.
Director: Phil Willmott.
Designer: Philip Lindley.
Lighting: Miguel Vicente.
Sound: Jamie Nicholson.
Musical Arranger/Orchestrator: Mark Collins.
Musical Director: Isaac McCullough.
Choreographer: Racky Plews.
Costume: Sophia Simensky.