The story of the boy who wouldn’t grow up has become a firm festive favourite, helped along the way by the Disney version, and even getting the ‘Goes Wrong’ treatment in the West End. This version of Peter Pan however, is the J.M. Barrie original, which was quite the theatrical feast when it first premiered well over a century ago. This production at the Park Theatre seeks to recreate the spectacle which first introduced the world to The Lost Boys, Neverland and of course Captain Hook.
This Peter Pan has a kind of old fashioned/modern hybrid look about it, one of the children wear an LA Lakers baseball cap while Mr. Darling checks his stocks and shares on an iPhone, but at the same time the children play classic board games, talking and dressing like times gone by. While it looks a bit incongruous to begin with, it really just proves that this play is truly timeless.
The installation of some new equipment means that seeing Peter Pan fly over the stage for the first time is quite spectacular, but it’s soon replaced with the irksome noise of the contraption overhead, and the sound of ropes being pulled behind a curtain. Add to that the fact that in order to take flight a character has to disappear backstage for a minute or so and you soon start to wonder if in this small space, perhaps it would have all been better left to the imagination.
Barrie created a world filled with fairies, mermaids and pirates, but with such a limited number of actors in the company even the small stage of the Park Theatre feels too empty even for imagination to take over. Harveen Mann plays the greatest number of roles but despite her strong performance, she can’t be playing them all at once. With so few people available Neverland is left feeling like a rather lonely, desolate place. Even with a few attempts at pantomime like audience interaction, there are moments which feel slow, especially during some overly long set changes.
Any sense of the production lagging is usually offset by the appearance of Alexander Vlahos as Hook, his exaggerated mannerisms are comical and engaging, captivating the audience, the younger members in particular, while still retaining the presence of a villain. Adam Buchanan perfectly captures the innocence of Michael, alongside Jason Kajdi as John and Rosemary Boyle’s Wendy. The immaturity and vulnerability of Peter Pan is given prominence in an outstanding performance from Nickcolia King-N’Da who gives us the sense of being on the brink of an awfully big adventure.
Director Jonathan O’Boyle has made the best use of the small cast and stage, the inclusion of background music in certain scenes, composed by Adrienne Quartly, does work wonders in elevating the entire production. Younger audiences are sure to be impressed with the vivid colours, loud noises and the flying scenes, and though it may not fully capture the magic and wonder of Peter Pan, it is certainly a loving recreation of J.M. Barrie’s original work, with a sense it’s made of faith and trust and pixie dust.