Saturday 24th September

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Peter Pan: Imaginative, haunting and simply brilliant

| Theatre | 26/05/2015

Peter Pan. Open Air Theatre.
Peter Pan. Open Air Theatre.
Rating:

Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel’s new production of J. M. Barrie’s 1904 play, which developed into the story of Peter Pan, is a triumph. The Open Air Theatre could not have chosen a more imaginatively constructed play to kick of its summer programme. The story of Peter Pan is well known by all, but this adaptation takes what is a familiar story, and narrates it through the lens of a First World War field hospital. The only way for the wounded soldier’s to shield themselves from the brutality of the war, is to escape into the magical world of Barrie’s fantasy novel.

As young soldiers scream in agony for their mothers, one wounded soldier recalls the tale of a boy who never grew up; Wendy, a nurse, takes the book from the soldier, and this is where the magic of Neverland comes to the Open Air Theatre. Moments later the field-hospital is transformed into the nursery of the Darlings, where Wendy meets the boy who never grew up. What was No-Man’s-Land is transformed into Neverland. The wounded soldiers of the field-hospital become the Lost Boys. From here on in the story of Peter Pan is told alongside the brutality of the war; the soldiers and the nurses taking refuge in a virtual reality, as they look to escape the nightmare unfolding around them.

Peter Pan. Open Air Theatre.

Peter Pan. Open Air Theatre.

Jon Bausor’s set design is incredibly smart and beautifully presented. The raggedly grey look of the field hospital’s transformation into a magical, warm and rosy-world of Neverland is stylishly accomplished. What were the hospital beds are soon camouflaged in beautiful greenery, where the stage is wrapped in a summer blossom. But the stark reality of the war is a constant presence, with the entirety of the stage surrounded by a single trench. This production of Peter Pan necessitates that you use your imagination to be transported to the world of Neverland, just as the soldier’s in the field-hospital were.

One striking aspect of this production is the reimagined Tinkerbell into a metallic puppet made of several lamps and animated by Rachel Donovan. The pirates are ruthless and lavishly dressed in a number of historically themed outfits ranging from medieval knights to samurai soldiers. Hiran Abeysekera is delightful as Peter; naturally conveying the vulnerability of Peter, as well as his somewhat eccentric character. Kae Alexander as Wendy is both caring and delicate, whilst George Bukhari as Nibs provides plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Integrated amongst the production is the haunting figure of signer Melanie Pappenheim whose sharp and delicate voice never fails to remind you of the brutal reality and vulnerability of the world these characters live in.

Peter Pan. Open Air Theatre.

Peter Pan. Open Air Theatre.

Peter Pan at the Open Air Theatre is a terrific production. Every detail of the production has been well conceived, and every second of the production had you captivated. Peter Pan is an old tale, but Sheader and Steel give it a twist, which shows you a whole new side to the boy who never grew up.

Written by Sandip Kana | @sandipkana

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