by J M Barrie adapted by Theresa Heskins.
New Vic Theatre Etruria Road ST5 0JG To 22 January 2011.
TICKETS: 01782 717962.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 December.
Physically the flying’s fine, but the dramatic temperature rises less well.
They fly through the air with the greatest of ease – New Vic Director Theresa Heskins’ discovery through a production last year that her theatre-in-the-round could accommodate actors soaring over the stage led to her adapting J M Barrie’s famous story.
Yet, unlike C S Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which Heskins adapted triumphantly here a year ago, Peter Pan exists as a play direct from its author with every scene imagined in stage terms. It’s a long piece, but cutting the story in length and scale, as here, limits the impact.
Three beds and a couple of window-frames don’t fully convey the safe world of Edwardian London, into which the dangerous spirit of childhood unaffected by adult role modelling enters. The effect of this may not be too noticeable at the start, but is at the end where eternally-youthful Peter returns to the Darling household and fails to recognise the adult Wendy.
Her permission for her daughter to leave with Peter comes across as a mutually agreed sleepover with neighbours, rather than part of an eternal tension between safe Darlingdom and an alternative society where mermaids and pirates are everyday, and only death remote as an awfully big adventure.
Additionally, the overall production is more of a focus than individual performances. Though Michael Hugo’s Peter has an apt innocence, there’s limited variety in his delivery. And while Ali Robbins fumes fizzingly, having Peter’s fairy friend played by an actor makes for awkwardness, and raises the question why Tinker Bell drinks the poison intended for him instead of merely pouring it away.
Other characters blend into an efficient but unexciting blandness. As Mr Darling Andonis James Anthony overpoints his mean treatment of family dog Nana (an endearing large puppet), while his Hook lacks full-bodied malice. His crocodile nemesis, formed of fragments interspersed with performers, is underwhelming, though there is a neat sense that, when it comes, Hook walks resignedly to his fated end – dying isn’t such an awfully big adventure, after all.
No-one could feel cheated of Barrie’s story, but its full amplitude and flavour are, alas, restricted.
Hook/Mr Darling: Andonis James Anthony.
Gentleman Starkey: Graeme Clint.
Nibs: Meline Danielewicz:
Smee/Nana: Morgan George.
Peter Pan: Michael Hugo.
John: Philip Labey.
Wendy: Amy Loughton.
Slightly: Luke McConnell.
Mrs Darling/Cecco/Mermaid: Dido Miles.
Bill Jukes: Al Orange.
Tinker Bell: Ali Robbins.
Michael: Paul Sandys.
Tootles: Mitesh Soni.
Children’s Teams: Grace Clarke, Lewis Gallacher, Eleanor Hopewell, Alistair Rowley/Liam Brandon, Kayleigh Crosbie, Natasha Prince, Esther Scrimshaw/Sophie Howell, Amber Johnson, Chloe Meakin, Kristian Morgan.
Director: Theresa Heskins.
Designer: Laura Clarkson.
Lighting: Daniella Beattie.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Composer/Musical Director: James Atherton.
Voice coach: Mark Langley.
Movement: Beverley Edmunds.
Costume: Lis Evans.
Aerial director: Vicki Amedume.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Assistant dire4ctor: Paschale Straiton.