Sunday, January 15, 2017

peter pan…

Moira and I went up to London yesterday to see Sally Cookson’s much-acclaimed version of JM Barrie’s “Peter Pan” at the National Theatre.
It was simply brilliant.
You know the story, of course… Peter, the boy who never grew up; the Darling family’s nursery and daughter Wendy; the ability to fly; Tinker Bell; the lost boys in Never Land; Captain Hook and the pirates… and, of course, the crocodile!
It’s just a children’s story.
Well, yes. But this telling of the story was completely magical.
Colourful, funny, dramatic, brilliantly inventive, poignant… theatre at its very, very best.
The production was devised entirely by the cast (in typical Cookson manner) - which included Benji Bower’s wonderful, integral, music – and made the most of the individual characteristics of the Olivier Theatre (with its drum-revolve stage). The costumes, set design and ‘streetwise’ storytelling are all spot-on.
The entire cast is absolutely excellent - including Felix, of course (“just plain perfect” as one critic described him!), as Smee and Mr Darling – with Paul Hilton stunning as Peter; Anna Francolini suitably fierce and sinister as Hook (and charming as Mrs Darling!); Madaleine Worrall as an ideal Wendy; and Saikat Ahmed as a ridiculous, but perfect, Tink!
It’s very difficult to pick any highlights of this show, but it would be utterly wrong not to mention the FLYING! They don’t go for any invisible wires, they go for rope systems and flying harnesses (which they describe to the audience as “fairy string”!)… with fellow cast members acting as counterweights, bouncing up and down tall stage scaffolding as the central characters ‘fly’. The whole effect is extraordinary and wonderful… the first time Peter launches himself out over the front stalls is simply breath-taking.
This production was definitely for BOTH children and adults. The Olivier Theatre was packed for the matinee performance we saw. The audience included lots of children (included one group we noticed who’d dressed for the occasion… as pirates, a sea captain and a green-clad Peter, as you do!) and everyone (including the adults, let me stress) was captivated (in a very enthusiastic way!).
Yes, it’s just a children’s story (and I know I’m soft)… but it made me cry.
Magical, brilliant, uplifting – live performance at its very, very best.
PS: IF I was any good with heights and IF I was young and fit, then I think I’ve discovered my new dream career: “professional counterweighter” (yes, that’s how the programme describes three individuals who spend most of the production “bouncing up and down tall stage scaffolding” for some of the most dramatic scenes)!

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