by J M Barrie adapted by Mike Kenny.
Theatre Royal To 3 September 2011.
Tue-Sat 7pm Mat Sat & 24, 26, 30, 31 Aug 2.30pm.
Audio-described 3 Sept 2.30pm & 7pm.
BSL Signed 24 Aug 7pm.
Captioned 3 Sept 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr15min One interval.
An awfully big, but not-at-all awful, adventure, which York audiences are rightly lapping up.
At first it looks as if they’re doing Sweeney Todd instead. A figure – later identified as Cornelius Macarthy’s Peter Pan – slides three times from hiding to slit pirate throats. It makes adapter Mike Kenny’s priority clear. Not with theatrical cosiness, and the Darling household’s Edwardian security, where Martin Barrass’s family dog Nana walks with human strides and the gestures of a human Nanny.
But with the imagined Neverland. The difference between the Darling parents is imagination. What sends Robert Pickavance, as the children’s Father, to the doghouse more than tricking Nana into drinking his medicine, is his lack of imaginative participation in his children’s lives.
Andrina Carroll shows their mother’s very different. While Father’s assigned by his children’s imagination as the villainous Hook, ending in the crocodile’s mouth as a projection of his terrestrial humiliation, Mrs Darling enters into her children’s inner lives, and willingly takes on the role of Tiger Lily, wrapping her costume round herself.
The Theatre Royal’s in-the-round stage (a temporary format – and increasingly, sadly so) has seen some vibrant work, staged with immediacy and no loss of colour or energy in recent months, and Dawn Allsopp’s design effortlessly merges the play’s waking and imaginative worlds, in sympathy with Kenny’s script.
Shortening J M Barrie’s long script can thin the story out, but Kenny’s sharpness (he’s one of the most thoughtful as well as most practised of playwrights for young people) maintains the dramatic weight as some of the fussy Edwardianism is excised.
And he keeps the important closing scene, where Peter’s irresponsibility (in ‘real-life’ terms) over his return visits is matched by the rewards his arrivals bring down the generations. Wendy’s permission for her daughter to go with Peter – to have an imaginative life – follows happily from her mother’s realisation that the world, and young people, are more than material objects.
It’s unfair to comment on York’s young people, as they play in rotation. The pirates in Damina Cruden’s swift-moving product ion are played by Theatre Royal associate company Belt Up. Ironically, since the play contradicts the old notion children should be seen and not heard.
Nana/Smee: Martin Barrass.
Mother/Tiger Lily: Andrina Carroll.
Peter Pan: Cornelius Macarthy.
Father/Hook: Robert Pickavance.
Cecco: Dominic llen.
Jukes: Joe Hufton.
Starkey: James Wilkes.
Wendy: Polly Sculpher/Anna Sheppard/Laura Soper/Josie Bellerby.
John: Reece McMahon/Theo Mason Wood/Josh Benson/Harrison Lee.
Michael: Charles Barry/Joshua Robinson/Thomas Robertson/Thomas Lister.
Nibs: Daniel Simpson/Luke Hobson/Stan Gaskell/Rachel Gladwin.
Tootles: Lewis Robson/Luke Taylor/Robert Sinkinson/Grace Martin.
Twin 1: Maddie Drury/Naomi Halliday/Olivia Robinson/Aled Vernon Rees.
Twin 2: Anais Crane/Nisha Benson/Anna Robinson/Reece Doherty.
Slightly: Matthew Naish/Charlotte Wood/Hannah Brown/Ailish Keogh.
Curly: Emma Vincent/rebekah Burland/Ross Diclemente/Rowan Grimshaw.
Mermaid/Fairy/Jane: Beth Molloy/Clara Williams/Imogen Little/Pooppy Costello.
Mermaid/Indian/Jane: Samantha Clipston/Grace Hobson/Anna Soden/Zoe Kesteven.
Director: Damian Cruden.
Designer: Dawn Allsopp.
Lighting: Richard G Jones.
Composer: Christopher Madin.
Choreographer: Shona Cowie.
Fight director: Liam Evans-Ford.
Young People’s Director: Kate Plumb.
Assistant director: Alexander Wright.