Ella Hickson deliberately renames her adaptation of J.M.Barrie’s classic novel, and with good reason. In this revival of their original production, the RSC send Wendy not just into battle alongside Peter Pan, but to his rescue.
In this version, Wendy (Mariah Gale) joins forces with her fellow females, the brash and bold Tink (Charlotte Mills) and the warrior, Tiger Lily (Mimi Ndiweni) to save Peter Pan (Rhys Rusbatch) and his gang of lost boys from the evil grasp of Captain Hook (normally Darrell D’Silva, but David Langham at this performance). Wendy and her brothers were taken to Neverland originally by Pan for Wendy to find her dead brother, Tom; however, they leave having learned the importance of remembering the past but also to let it go.
Mariah Gale as Wendy was an excellent casting choice. Her awkward and gawky physicality changed to that of a powerful determined women as she discovered she did not want to mother the boys, especially without the superb Rhys Rusbatch, as Pan, by her side as her husband.
James Corrigan and Jordan Metcalfe were very funny as brothers John and Michael respectively, creating some really unique characters. Along with the Lost Boys, they created some of the funniest physical comedy of the show within their immense underground lair, designed by Colin Richmond. Charlotte Mills’ Tink and the hopeless pirate, Martin (Adam Gillen), also had some of the best innuendo laden gags for the adults among the audience.
David Langham’s Captain Hook started well, however by the first act did begin to wane somewhat as a confusing train of thought emerged within the character of his increasing age. Furthermore, his boat did seem a little bit too small to contain Terry Knight’s penultimate fight sequence. Mimi Ndiweni impressed as Tiger Lilly, but unfortunately still only had a relatively small amount of stage time.
Olly Fox’s compositions worked cohesively with Jonathan Munby’s overall vision. The decision to include multiple ‘shadows’ enabled seamless transitions and stylised death sequences to great effect. The physical strength of these performers was sublime, especially that of Arthur Kyeyune who also played the menacing humanoid crocodile who sought Hook.
For a real good fun performance with a strong, but subtle, message of female empowerment, then the RSC is the place to be this winter. This not a pantomime or a money grabbing Christmas ploy; it is an important show for both adults and children to see. Gale’s performance is fantastic, the design is grand and, although the jokes become strenuous at times and there are a few scenes that could be cut without much change to the narrative, a group of characters are created in Hickson’s version that we love independently of any of the Disney influenced adaptations that we have ever seen before.