Wendy and Peter Pan
**** (4 stars)
It’s very loud, very energetic and mostly very entertaining: but is it “Peter Pan from Wendy’s point of view”? Surely the Darlings didn’t have another son, Tom, whose death makes Wendy feel guilty that she couldn’t save him and that it’s up to her to fix things and make her parents’ relationship ‘go right’ again… Peter hasn’t lost his shadow, there’s no big shaggy dog looking after the children, the crocodile doesn’t get Hook, there’s not that much flying, and a fair amount of adult conversation reveals the cracks in the family, which will apparently be put right again if Mrs Darling goes out and gets a job…
The set which doubles as the lost boys’ house and Hook’s ship is a splendid, adult-sized soft play area which is used to the full, with obvious enjoyment, by the entire cast. Hook is villainous in the extreme – Dirty Den from East Enders come back to get his revenge on the boy who fed his hand to the crocodile: there’s a lovely moment when his hook is removed and replaced with a rapier blade so that he can fight with two swords. The crocodile makes a single cameo appearance – but it’s magnificent!
Mr and Mrs Darling [Gyuri Sarossy and Bonnie Baddoo] double up as the daringly feisty Tiger Lily and villainous Hook, their genteel Edinburgh accents being replaced by ones somewhat more common [and English]. Ziggy Heath’s Peter is suitably dashing and mercurial, while Sally Reid’s Tink[erbell], a chunky and feisty Weegie, is certainly not the usual tinkly wee fluffy thing. John [George Naylor] already shows signs of becoming a cricket-obsessed bore, while Michael Cristian Ortega] shows a delightfully feminine side. The sibling relationships and rivalries are excellently portrayed as Wendy [Isobel McArthur] struggles with the burdens placed upon her and the ones she takes on herself, both at home and in Neverland: trying to keep things running and to get the boys to do what they have to do, while they Simply Want To Have Fun.
I appreciated the positivity of the three ‘girls’ – Wendy, Tiger Lily and Tink – but I’m not sure about the girly bonding bit between them. I liked Hook’s attempt to lure Wendy to his side with a sparkly dress and the invitation to be a pirate: and I had no idea that Dorian Simpson’s Smee felt that way about his captain… It was delightful when Wendy got to fly with Peter, and everyone went ‘aaah’ when they kissed: but still Peter refused to grow up, and Hook railed against growing older.
It was a highly energetic performance, with an excellently juvenile Peter, and a crackingly feisty Wendy. The audience cheered and booed and hissed: and still I felt something lacking – the play was so concerned to get its message across that it interfered with the narrative at various points. I really don’t see why we had to drag Tom into it, or have Wendy and Peter up ladders looking at the stars while he explained about them being ‘lost boys’ [ones who had died but whose parents couldn’t let themselves ever be happy – if they could, the boys would leave the stars and join Peter and his crew in Neverland…] It’s a good way to begin to address the subjects of death and loss, but why were there no girl stars?
I felt a great deal of sympathy for Wendy throughout, and accept that she chose to grow up and Peter didn’t: I don’t know that I totally believe the ending. I didn’t have a Young person with me this time so can’t report on how much was picked up and how much passed over their head. I was left feeling a loss. But the audience loved it!
Wendy and Peter Pan, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, run ends 5 January 2019, For tickets go to: https://lyceum.org.uk/whats-on/production/wendy-peter-pan
review by Mary Woodward