by J.M. Barrie
Studio 3, Riverside Studios (Studio 3) Crisp Road W6 9RL To 28 April, 2012.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm no performance 6 April.
Runs 2hr 20 min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8237 1111.
Review: William Russell 3 April.
Never, never, never again land.
In his day J. M. Barrie was a power in the theatre. Today, Peter Pan apart, he is little remembered so the opportunity to see this 1920 ghost story is arguably one, for those interested in what made him so famous, not to miss.
On the other hand it is a ridiculous tale, not helped by a total lack of sense of period in the playing and a chorus of wailing zombies of various sexes who crash around the set threatening the living while singing “Aaaaha”.
All Barrie’s themes are there – lost innocence, children who never grow up, and golden never, never lands where all will be well, which in post First World War Britain may have had resonances missing today.
It opens with Harry (Charlie Kerson) returning to a derelict Sussex house, once his home, being shown round by a patently scared old housekeeper. Then we go back in time. Mary Rose (Jessie Cave), a clearly odd teenager, has just been proposed to by the equally gormless sailor boy Simon (Carsten Hayes).
Her parents take him aside and explain there is a problem. Some time back on a Scottish island Mary Rose vanished for 20 days and returned unaware she had been missing. But Simon, being a decent sort of bloke, is unperturbed. They marry, have a child and some years later the dolt takes his child wife back to the island, whereupon she disappears again, this time for 25 years.
When she returns to Sussex all the way from the Hebrides, unlike the audience, she has not aged. In due course everyone dies, but Mary Rose’s ghost remains seeking her lost child. Guess who.
Matthew Parker has given it as good a production as it deserves and there is a fabulous set by Cherry Truluck, but Barrie’s script is mostly unplayable. The domestic scenes between Mary’s parents are particularly ghastly, and those zombies are a huge mistake. Nor, sadly, does Cave save the day. One wishes she would head off in to the unknown every time she comes on stage – along with the rest of the cast.
Mrs Ottery: Joanna Watt.
Harry: Charlie Kerson.
Mr Amy: Alec Gray.
Mr Morland: Nicholas Hoad.
Mrs Morland: Maggie Robson.
Mary Rose: Jessie Cave.
Simon Blake: Carsten Hayes.
Cameron: Phil Bishop.
Ensemble: Greg Airey, Scott Ellis, Philippa George, Ariel Harrison, Carolin Ott, Sally Preston, Maya Thomas, Noah Young.
Musicians: Bryan Pilkington, Ruth Westley.
Director: Matthew Parker.
Designer: Cherry Truluck.
Lighting: Gary Bowman.
Sound: Andy Graham, Mike Thacker.
Composer/Musical Director: Maria Haik Escudero.
Costume: Penelope Watson.