adapted from J M Barrie by Anna Clarkson, Julia Hogan, Chris Hoyle, Terry Hughes, Mark Murphy, Eve Steele, Jill Stephenson, Jennifer Tuckett.
Octagon Theatre Howell Croft South BL1 1SB To 12 January 2013.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 01204 520661.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 December.
A brief, and possibly innovative, interchange with Neverland.
Things were in full swing as I entered the Octagon, a few minutes late, to receive a visual and verbal shock in the brightly coloured Darling nursery, an alphabet running along its walls. With Mrs Darling’s dress, it seemed very 1950s. Last year the Octagon’s writing team relocated Oz. This year, were they doing likewise with the time dimension?
But there was already talk of dreams. And when Peter appeared, it was like the fulfilment of dreams and fancies. Could it be that this Wendy wasn’t the first, that I – and, slightly earlier, the rest of the audience – had walked in on a family whose women were already haunted by precognitions and questioning memories?
If so, it sets them apart from the practical men. And Mr Darling, as mid-century man worried about business meetings and mortgage repayments, is more understandable than J M Barrie’s Mr Darling, with the author’s heavy-handed, childish humour.
If each generation of Darling daughters visits Neverland, is it a place or a state of mind? The lack of any flying here suggests the latter – the children imagine they’re flying. And, is there an independent Captain Hook, or is he a generational projection of the pater familias? Christopher Villiers matches his reasonable Mr Darling with an easily upset Hook.
The set, more apt as nursery than Neverland, is treated with childhood imagination, though there are practical limitations. The crocodile is foreshortened and unfearsome. And the Octagon’s twice-daily Christmas schedule keeps shows short, so the Indians don’t exist and the Mermaids might as well not. Nor is there room to develop the pirates individually.
Last time I saw Tinker Bell played by an actor, it seemed problematic, but with her range of near-speech squeaks and squawks, plus innate impulsiveness, Anna Wheatley gives her vibrant personality. Amy Noble’s Wendy is a believable channel for imaginative dreams.
Yet, if the power which brings Peter back passes through the female line, it’s a wonder the family’s still called Darling. So, I might have found a new approach to the story; or maybe, next time, I just need to be on time.
Liza/Starkey/Mermaid: Alison George.
Mrs Darling/Bill Jukes/Mermaid: Natalie Grady.
Nana/Smee: Mathew Hamper.
Peter Pan: Samuel Hargreaves.
Wendy: Amy Noble.
Mr Darling/Captain Hook: Christopher Villiers.
Tinker Bell/Mermaid: Anna Wheatley.
Director/Dramaturg: Elizabeth Newman.
Designer: Elizabeth Wright.
Lighting: Ciaran Bagnall.
Sound: Andy Smith.
Composer/Musical Director: Barbara Hockaday.
Movement: Lesley Hutchison.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Freyja Winterson.