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Lost Boy at the Finborough Theatre

| Theatre | 06/01/2014

Lost Boy
Max Panks, Joseph Taylor, Luka Markus and David Scotland. Photo by Scott Rylander.

If you have ever thought that blending Peter Pan with the First World War is just plain silly (I am guilty of this), then really, you’re just plain wrong. Lost Boy, written and directed by Phil Willmott does exactly that – it puts Pan and his motley crew of lost boys on the front lines. The result is a thought-provoking and bittersweet musical that tracks the demise of innocence in war through familiar childhood characters.

The action opens with George Llewelyn Davies (one of the boys who inspired JM Barrie in his creation of Peter Pan), comforting a shell shocked soldier in his platoon before slumping into the mud to get some sleep the night before a big push. We are sucked into his dream where he imagines himself as a swaggering Peter Pan, bent on learning how to be a man and searching for the next ‘awfully big adventure’.

The cast overall are really quite brilliant. Steven Butler captures Peter’s arrogance wonderfully and portrays his attempts to become a man skilfully (he employs some impressive facial expressions). Grace Gardner is a sufficiently loved up (yet still sensible) Wendy Darling and her performance of ‘Wendy’s Song’ is positively goosebump-inducing (a belter if there ever was one). The two standout performances though are from Joanna Woodward as a downtrodden Tinker Bell and Joseph Taylor as Michael Darling, grown to become a music hall performer.

The musical element of Lost Boy fits surprisingly well with the subject matter and really enhances the whole experience. There is such a mix of styles, from burlesque to power ballad to excellent ensemble pieces. A special mention goes to ‘Jungian Dream Analysis’, a group performance with John Darling as the lead (played by Richard James-King). It seems that John discovered a penchant for Jungian psychoanalysis after leaving Neverland. As well as being generally amusing, this song was cleverly placed to remind us that the action is taking place within a dream, something I did forget momentarily on more than one occasion.

Lost Boy is a musical that does not seem to know it’s own mood. It flits between moments of hilarity, sadness and raunchiness with the occasional bit of philosophising about the nature of being a man as opposed to a boy. Even though it took a different turn to what I expected, I did not see this as a bad thing. I think if you’re going to take The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up and stick him in war-torn Edwardian England in the midst of a social and cultural upheaval then, yes, there is going to be some emotional instability going on. It is pretty much inevitable. These changes in tone manage to successfully balance each other out to create an engaging musical experience.

Blending epic themes, belting musical numbers and reimagined familiar characters, Lost Boy is a truly great way to start the first year of the First World War Centenary. If this sets a precedent for the quality of plays in the GreatWar100 series (presented by the Finborough Theatre), then I really look forward to what comes next.

Lost Boy is at the Finborough Theatre until January 11 when it moves on to the Charing Cross Theatre from January 13 to February 15. For more information and to buy tickets visit the Finborough Theatre website:

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