“All children, except one, grow up.”
The story of Peter Pan has become a childhood treasure: an adventure we embark on as children, then pass on to our own children and our children’s children when the inevitable happens – we grow up. The boy who refuses to grow up is a childhood fantasy, a dream of always being innocent; but it is also a reminder that although we all have to grow up and worry about tax, jobs and education, we all feel a childish joy inside from time to time. Whether we’re five, thirty or ninety, it’s okay to dream, to let go of all worries and to just have fun.
J.M. Barrie’s eternal story has been retold in almost every medium possible and with many different variations. There is a charm in Peter – a recklessness and an imagination that we can’t seem to let go of. We need Peter, even as grown-ups, but we also need Neverland: a place to escape to, a world so different to our own that we are allowed to dream and rid ourselves of everything that surrounds us in everyday life.
This is what makes the arena spectacular Peter Pan – The Never Ending Story so captivating and significant. Being an arena production, it’s designed for an audience of thousands, which only works if the visual and audio aspect is revolutionary. This epic production tells the story of Peter Pan as we know it, this time narrated by Tinkerbell, so as to spare the extra dialogue that would understandably be drowned in an arena. The show focuses on the visual experience and world of Neverland – and what a world that is. Luc Petit’s direction and concept has transformed the classic tale into a fantastical combination of animation, acrobatics and design that sweeps the audience off their feet and into a world of wonder. Having worked with Cirque Du Soleil, Luc Petit pulls out all the cards and tricks, on such a scale that you find yourself gawking and pointing like an excited four-year-old.
Being a show with little dialogue, the focus lies not only on the visuals, but also on the musical arrangements. Using songs from artists like Seal, Alphaville and Robbie Williams, the show’s musical world connects with the older part of the audience. Matt Dunkley’s supporting score is magical, and having worked on films such as Moulin Rouge and The Dark Knight he contributes to the impressive line-up of creatives involved in this production.
The performers are all skilled dancers and acrobats, and the main roles are beautifully sung and acted. It is very clearly Peter Pan – played by the charming Sandor Stürbl – who steals the show, not only with his incredible voice and costume design, but also with his bravery as he is thrown into the air without wires and blown towards the ceiling by a massive wind machine. The show uses every special effect possible and demands a great deal from its performers, but boy does it pay off.
It’s not a perfect show. It lacks a sense of intimacy because of its size, and the beginning seems slightly chaotic. It takes a bit too long to get on its feet and sometimes we lose the narration for all the noise. But the second we take off for Neverland, it’s a very special journey that not only proves the genius of producer Geert Allaert’s idea, but also that both grown-ups and children crave a magic wonder like this.
“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust”, as J.M. Barrie writes. That’s why the story of Peter Pan will always be with us, and why you should see this show. Sometimes we have to let go of being responsible adults, grow back down and just have fun.
Peter Pan – The Never Ending Story played at Wembley Arena until 4 January, and is playing in Glasgow 10-12 January and in Newcastle 15-16 January. For tickets and more information, see the Peter Pan World Arena Tour website.