THE LOST BOY PETER PAN – Pleasance Theatre ❄❄❄

In Children's theatre, London theatre, Musicals, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Debbie GilpinLeave a Comment

Pleasance Theatre, London – until 11 January 2018

Action To The Word return to the London stage with their version of J. M. Barrie’s classic tale about The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, last performed over the festive season in 2016. It is brought to life in a heavily musical production, bringing on a variety of pop and rock artists. The show actually draws on all of Barrie’s Peter Pan source material, touching on his origins (from Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens) and then the more famous story set mostly in Neverland (from the stage play, and the novel Peter and Wendy).

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It begins in 1704, when Peter is a small child living in London – when he overhears talk about children growing up, he manages to fly away out of his window, but only makes it as far as Kensington Gardens. The indigent fairies eventually grant him a wish and fly him back to his mother, only to find she has gone. Fast forward to 2017, Peter is still outwardly 10 years old and has been spying on the Darling family. When his shadow gets trapped, he is discovered by Wendy; she sews it back on and rashly accepts the offer of a chance to fly away to the place of her dreams with Peter and her two brothers, John and Michael.

The initial plan with this production was to use the music of The Beatles, as the band has been a great inspiration to director Alexandra Spencer-Jones, however, the final version being performed features a wide range of artists, from The Zombies and ELO to Fun. and Take That. I think this is a better approach, as The Beatles may be a legendary band and an inspiration to many, but there’s nothing that directly links them with Peter Pan – so, in the interest of storytelling, I think the right decision has been made. At times, though, it does feel like script has been sacrificed for song; it could be slightly more balanced.

What has also changed in the process of the show’s development is its running time; for reasons I can’t understand, an interval has been added in. It takes it from the amenable 75-minute straight-through that I was expecting to 110 minutes split by an interval of over 20 minutes. Having a break doesn’t enhance the storytelling, and I believe it actually made the children in the audience more restless when the second act began; getting it done quickly is always preferable, surely?

As ever, it is a very physical production – even more expected given the amount of action and adventure involved. The fight scene between Pan and Hook, set to a rendition of Foo Fighters’ The Pretender, is undoubtedly the centrepiece of the show, showcasing superb musicianship and fantastic physicality.

The Lost Boy Peter Pan
Photo credit: The Other Richard

The cast of seven put in spirited performances, doubling up and playing a wide range of the musical instruments strewn across the stage (made to look like an enchanted, fantastical den). Toby Falla and Hannah Haines lead well as Peter and Wendy, Falla capturing Peter’s arrogant streak and Haines deftly brings out Wendy’s hopeful, caring nature. Thomas Parrish is a treat as the youngest Darling, Michael, providing some great comic moments.

The more versions of Peter Pan I see, the more problematic the story becomes. Maybe it’s just depressing once you reach adulthood, as Peter has shunned the opportunity to experience that – and it also reminds you of the increasing number of incredibly immature young adults growing up with an unwarranted sense of entitlement. It is a story that was originally told to children, who are more likely to pick up on the magical elements and derring-do; in that vein, I’d say there are large parts of this production that would be lost on smaller children, and that it’s more for the slightly older ones to ponder over.

The Lost Boy Peter Pan
Photo credit: The Other Richard

My verdict? An interesting take on an iconic children’s story, but it gets a little lost in the music along the way – a superbly physical effort, however.

Rating: ❄❄❄

The Lost Boy Peter Pan runs at the Pleasance until 7 January 2018. Tickets are available online or from the box office.

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Tags:Action To The Word, Alexandra Spencer-Jones, Hannah Haines, J. M. Barrie, London, Off West End, Peter Pan, Pleasance London, review, The Lost Boy Peter Pan, theatre, Thomas Parrish, Toby FallaCategories:all posts, Christmas, review, theatre

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Debbie Gilpin
Debbie Gilpin stumbled into writing about theatre when she moved to London after studying for a degree in Human Genetics at Newcastle University. She started her website Mind the Blog in November 2014 and also tweets from @Mind_the_Blog. She spent the best part of 2014-16 inadvertently documenting Sunny Afternoon in the West End, and now also writes for BroadwayWorld UK. Debbie’s theatre passions are Shakespeare and new writing, but she’s also a sucker for shows with a tap routine.
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Debbie Gilpin on FacebookDebbie Gilpin on RssDebbie Gilpin on Twitter
Debbie Gilpin
Debbie Gilpin stumbled into writing about theatre when she moved to London after studying for a degree in Human Genetics at Newcastle University. She started her website Mind the Blog in November 2014 and also tweets from @Mind_the_Blog. She spent the best part of 2014-16 inadvertently documenting Sunny Afternoon in the West End, and now also writes for BroadwayWorld UK. Debbie’s theatre passions are Shakespeare and new writing, but she’s also a sucker for shows with a tap routine.

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