We all know the story of Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up. It’s a time-honoured favourite, especially at this time of year. With the show’s popularity, expectations for any production of it are high. We want magic, wonder, and fun. And Jonathan O’Boyle’s version of J.M. Barrie’s classic certainly delivers. O’Boyle’s Peter Pan is light-hearted and very funny, with something for every member of the family.
It is always a challenge to bring the life and youthful exuberance of the novel to the stage and, with a cast of just eight members, that challenge is made all the more difficult. But the cast meet that expectation and then some. Nickcolia King-N’da’s Peter feels incredibly modern while remaining reminiscent of the traditional story’s character – blending Peter’s naïve charm with Fortnite celebration dances. As Peter’s nemesis, Alexander Vlahos’s Hook is menacing, yet strangely affecting. The two of them play spectacularly off each other. And they’re not the only ones.
Natalie Grady’s loveable and hilarious Smee complements Hook perfectly, resulting in some absolutely delicious back and forth between the two; and the Darling children (Rosemary Boyle as Wendy, Adam Buchanan as Michael, and Jason Kajdi as John) embody the compulsory affectionate bullying that comes part and parcel of siblinghood.
To round out the cast, Harveen Mann and Alfie Webster take on the, not enviable, task of portraying literally everyone else. Mann’s Tootles is a shining moment for her and Webster’s puppetry as Nana brings the leaf dog to beautifully animated life.
The show is faultlessly designed as well. Adrienne Quartly’s sound design is impeccable; with each piece of music furthering the journey the company takes us on, and Gregor Donnelly’s set and costume design works wonders with the space the show is given. With a show that spans such fantastical settings as there are in Neverland, the biggest stage in the world runs the risk of not being big enough when not used properly. But Donnelly’s design manages to compress the wonder that we thirst for onto the stage of the Park200: no easy feat.
It’s not a perfect show: the flying is a bit hesitant and clunky (but as the first company ever to fly in the Park, one is inclined to let that go), some of the accents in the show come out a bit dodgy, and the first act is noticeably stronger than the second. But for the better part of two hours, you are swept up in the magic of make-believe; of fairies and mermaids; of imaginary dinners and flying. You are reminded of how it feels to never want to grow up, and that is something worth experiencing.
Peter Pan is playing The Park200 until 5 January 2018. For more information and tickets, click here.