There can be no better way to pass a summer’s eve than watching Slapstick Picnic theatre’s exuberant outdoor production of Peter Pan in the beautiful grounds of the Covent Garden Actor’s Church.
Slapstick Picnic celebrates silliness, and this theatrical treat of buffoonery is frenetically performed at breakneck speed by just three actors playing no less than four characters each from the much loved JM Barrie classic. These include the Darling family, feral Island children, bullying pirates, and a opportune crocodile who has swallowed a clock.
Peter Pan; or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, about an impish little boy who can fly and steals the Darling children to Neverland, an island of endless adventure, originally appeared as a 1904 play and later a 1911 novel titled Peter and Wendy. Barrie continued to revise the play until the publication of the play script in 1928.
Barrie created Peter Pan in stories he told to the sons of his friend Sylvia Llewelyn Davies’. The eponymous character’s name in the play and novel comes from two sources: Peter, one of the Llewelyn Davies boys as a newborn baby, and Pan the mischievous Greek god of the woodlands.
The endless creativity by Slapstick Picnic with Peter Pan, is a nice reminder of how effective getting back to theatrical basics can be, and there are some wonderful inspired touches throughout the production including representing Michael the youngest of the Darling family, as a psychotic glove puppet who is a thrill killer of pirates.
The production also takes a dig at Wendy’s whimsical Edwardian maternal role in the play, which gives rise to a clever gender politics joke involving modern day airfryers.
One of the most magical moments of the evening happened coincidentally when the dolls being used to represent the children flying to Neverland, land on a cardboard clock arm of Big Ben, and the bells of St Paul’s Church also chimed simultaneously.
All the actors shine in their many roles. Lucy Green is captivating as the embittered Captain Hook and leads the gags with detachable kitchen implements. William Ross Fawcett has an infectious energy as a very animated and slightly ADHD Pan, while as Tinkerbell, Charlotte Driessler hilariously peppers her faerie language with fonts.
Despite the production sometimes feeling slightly over-long and seeming to lose its way towards the end of second act, the boundless energy of the cast never waivers.
In 1992 Barrie gifted his copyright of Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital, and Slapstick Picnic will be donating a percentage of ticket sales to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Slapstick Picnic’s Peter Pan is at The Actor’s Church until 15th July 2023