PETER PAN by JM Barrie: Park Theatre, London
Directed by Jonathan O'Boyle, Danien Tracey Productions in association with Park Theatre and Julie Clare Productions present their 2018 update of the classic JM Barrie play 'Peter Pan' at London's Park Theatre. With few alterations to the original concept, apart from a few 21st century expletives, mobile phones and trendy dress, this is a pretty faithful production. The familiar ingredients are there with the swash buckling Captain Hook, the flights across the stage of Peter Pan and the Darling children, the tick tick tocking of the crocodile and, let's not forget, Nana the Dog, this time in the form of a  puppet comprising autumnal leaves manipulated effectively by Alfie Webster.

On a relatively small stage area, flights and fighting are well managed, albeit a little slow in pace. Lighting too is effective, with its sinister darkness of greens and swirling mists, present in both the mossy interior of the nursery and in the swamps of Neverland. At this point I might suggest that for the very young viewers, this proved to be a little unnerving. Furthermore this is a two hour production and, apart from moments of levity, demands tight focus and a strong suspension of reality. A difficult ask of very young children and I would think those below the age of 7 might find some aspects a little confusing.  

So, back to the play. This is a world of make believe, where games are played and pretence is vital. A world where lost children, desperate to be loved, play at happy families whose mothers will care for them and read them stories, whilst fathers will provide for them. Here Peter Pan, Michael and John can play at being pirates and have 'awfully big adventures' but Wendy must provide safety and comfort. Of course, the play was written in 1904 in a world where gender roles and expectations were specific and where allegiance to King and country were the norm.

To begin, we meet Wendy (Rosemary Boyle), Michael (Adam Buchanan) and John (Jason Kajdi) in their nursery which has a strong semblance to woodland, with fallen leaves and green moss.The set is dark and mysterious with swirling mists and a sinister ambiance. Neverland retains this effect and, despite the lighter moments, suggests a darker side.

The cast of eight play their roles with enthusiasm and an obvious sense of enjoyment. Alexander Vlahos's Captain Hook is a genial character, (think Adam Ant meets Kenny Everett) and Nickolla King-N'Da's portrayal of Peter Pan is charismatic. He is a young boy seeking eternal adventure but with a caring and vulnerable side to his character. He may want to remain a boy forever but recognises the need to protect.

Well received by its audience, this is a charming Christmas production. Suspend belief, focus on the complexities and have some fun. Do we believe in fairies? Oh yes, clap, clap, clap.

Listings:

Photography: Chris Gardner

Peter Pan: Park 200, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N$ 3JP

Dates: 5 December 2018 - 5 January 2019

Age guidance: 5+ (please see my caveat above)

Performances: Tue-Sat evenings, 7.30 pm, Thu & Sat matinees 3 pm. Relaxed Fri 21 December 1.30 pm. Audio described: Sat 4 Jan 3 pm.

Prices: Previews £18.50, standard £18.50 - £32.50. Concessions £16.50 - £23.50. Children unde 16 £15 - £20.

Booking:  www.parktheatre.co.uk /020 7870 6876 (10% telephone booking fee capped at £2.50 per ticket)