Troubadour White City Theatre, London – until 27 October 2019
It’s 60 years since I was taken by the hand to see my first Peter Pan. Margaret Lockwood, since you ask, the last year she played it before her daughter Julia took over and had her thighs chafed by the harness of Kirby’s Flying Ballet. Peter Pan was the show that captured my theatrical imagination because I couldn’t see how the magic worked.
Sally Cookson’s reinterpreted Peter Pan at the new, splendid, exciting Troubadour Theatre very near White City tube captures contemporary imaginations because they can see how it works, and are gripped by the techniques.
Apart from a slowish exposition start, this is a delight of constantly inventive staging. The moment when the Darling children take off from their beds to fly to Neverland is achieved with the simplest painted placards representing windows and doors then clouds, but has real heart-raising beauty.
John Darling almost drowns in a sea of ribbons, Hook is attacked by a crocodile of corrugated sheeting, the flying is done on visible wires with human counterweights scaling shiny ladders – it’s witty, and clever, and warm.
There are some ace characterisations too. Wendy’s a robust, self-determined girl in Daisy Maywood’s interpretation, which gives an extra dimension to JM Barrie’s dissection of the mother/child dynamic especially in scenes with John Pfumojena’s Pan, gung-ho but insecure, and wonderfully naïve when she flirts with him.
As Mrs Darling, Kelly Price transforms into possibly the most fiercely sadistic Captain Hook imaginable, her lustrous Jaws-from-James-Bond metallic dentures are so compelling they should sell them in sets in the foyer.
Traditionally, every child gets a lump in their throat when Tinkerbell drinks the poison to save Peter, but it’s a massive tribute to Shiv Rabheru‘s top flight scene-stealing brattish Tink with an angry Hindi-like language all his own, that the magic still works and the children clap to believe in fairies.
So will you. Second star to the right, and straight on to Shepherd’s Bush.
until 27 October