Based on the novel by J.M. Barrie
Adapted and directed by Alexandra Spencer-Jones
Presented by Action to the Word in association with Glynis Henderson Productions.
A sparkling, musical, and surprisingly emotional romp into the classic tale of the boy who refuses to grow up, his group of young runaways, and his rivalry with a certain dastardly pirate.
This review has been written with the insightful help of Sebastian (aged 7), and Daniel (age 10). Daniel went under the pseudonym of Ruben in last week’s Once Upon A Snowflake review, but has been thinking about it and said he wanted to upgrade his name again. Sebastian is fine with his own name, but did get quite excited about the prospect of being called Darth Vader.
It was a joy to watch the show with the boys. Their eyes were glued to the stage, their smiles lingered on their faces for much of the play.
“The acting is very clear”, says Sebastian almost as soon as the lights came up in intermission. “Their communication is good”.
The story is told often through verse, and often in song borrowing and covering pop and rock songs throughout, re-purposing well known tunes to become vehicles for the story.
“I liked that they could play so many different instruments at once”, say Daniel, referring to the effortless talent displayed by the cast, each member of whom seemed to faultlessly play at least four instruments during the performance.
The cast is as equally talented dramatically as they are musically. “They were really good and showed lots of character”, said Daniel.
“Ha! Captain Hook was funny, yaaah! Rahr! Yaahhh!” says Sebastian, drifting into what I’m guessing was a flashback of the impressive fight sequences.
“I felt like crying, and then sometimes I felt like laughing”, grins Daniel, who was particularly moved by Wendy (Hannah Haines).
The humour of the piece was a definite crowd-pleaser with the boys.
“I liked the mermaid bits”, says Daniel referring to one particularly memorable gag, “but, fish being evil? What’s with that?!”
“Fish is always evil!”, declares Sebastian helpfully, before rasping “fish, fish, fish, fish. Fish is evil! I’ll lurk in the shadows” and stalking off.
“I liked the mermaid bits cause it had references to the S – E – X”, says Daniel conspiratorially once his brother had disappeared to menace a nearby bus stop.
More soberly he adds, “I liked the appearances too. The sets and the costumes.”
“Yeah, set was good!” says Sebastian, re-joining us.
It’s very playful show, and both the cast and the design elements manage to imbue the performance with excitement, like being at your first sleep-over and sneaking into the kitchen to steal chocolates.
It’s an artful retelling, and from the adult point of view I really admired how Alexandra Spencer-Jones and company has brought out the best of what’s made the Barrie classic so enduring. It’s a rollicking adventure, but at its heart it remains a nuanced and emotional coming-of-age tale. Hook is no pantomime villain, but a lonely old man who is as lost as Peter, while Pan is far from being a textbook hero either. He is arrogant and often cruel as only children can be. The show beautifully brings to stage the nostalgia of childhood and our fears of growing up. It was a ton of fun, but it also surprised me by how much it moved me.
As with all my family show reviews, I leave it to the boys to rate the show. “What would you give it out of five?” I ask.
“Five out of five!” says Sebastian immediately.
It took a little longer for Daniel to make his decision. He spent a while weighing up the options in his head. He contemplated it stoically.
Then he confidently announced the show to be “sixteen out of five”.
A heartily recommended family adventure.