Peter Pan

Reviewer's Rating

‘Peter Pan’, J. M. Barrie’s timeless classic play (1904) about the eternal boy from Never Land, is given another layer of meaning in this production at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre that will captivate the younger viewers and challenge the older. With a thought-provoking bracketing story, devised by the talented company and delicately directed by Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel, ‘Peter Pan’ becomes a symbol of the dead soldiers of wars whose lives were taken too soon.

Sheader and Steel take up the invitation to deal with war, death, and bereavement that lies in between the lines of the original play, and bring these elements to the front in this heartbreaking production of Peter Pan without detracting in any way from the magic. The Khaki uniforms, muddy trenches, screaming soldiers and metal beds in the first scene take us straight into a Red-Cross hospital during WW1. Cora Kirk, with her warm and sincere voice, portrays a fragile and yet devoted nurse, that reads a few lines from ‘Peter Pan’ to the wounded soldiers right before she turns into Wendy Darling and the magic begins.

Peter Pan Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

The concept is so right and well thought through that all the elements seem to just fall in the right place. Rebecca Thorn’s touching singing of Nick Powell’s music as Mrs Darling accompanies the story and reminds us that the bereaved mothers are still waiting for their lost sons. Carefully chosen war chants counter the mother’s grief, elevated under the musical direction of Candida Caldicot. The clever set design of Jon Bausor transforms the stage almost effortlessly from the bloody battlefield through the magical deep sea of Never Land, to the Jolly Roger (the pirate ship), and even turns it into the huge infamous crocodile in an exciting moment in the show! The ropes system comes across as slightly cumbersome, but you learn to forget about it soon enough, as it definitely pays off when the children all fly together to Never Land. Jon Morrell designed inspiring costumes that ignite each character with uniqueness and background stories that just glow out of them. Especially for the pirates, I must say. The puppets, designed by Rachael Canning, are no less than poems, teeming with metaphors well rooted in the concept of the show. An example, one of many, is a stork, a migratory bird, made of a suitcase! Or mermaids made of gas masks!

Peter Pan Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

The cast members make a great ensemble. They are inventive and powerful, and they perform an electrifying sword-fight directed by Kate Waters. Dennis Herdman brings a tormented and terrifying Captain Hook. Sam Angell defies gravity and is in his element as the flying Peter Pan. His adventure costs him in having to grow up, and Sam has a couple of truthful and heartbreaking moments facing up to reality there. With an alien fairy tongue she produces with her voice, and fantastic physical comic timing, Elisa De Grey brings to life the jealous and temperamental Tinker Bell. Luke Johnson, skillfully “gets away with his loot” and stands up as the French Musketeer-Pirate.

The famous quote from the book: ‘To die will be an awfully big adventure’ is being answered in this version with: ‘To live will be an awfully bigger adventure’, as the memory of the lost boys is perpetuated in the last scene. This production will change the way you look at ‘Peter Pan’ forever.