The word NEVERLAND shone out above the stage Vegas-style as my ten-year-old daughter and I made our way to our seats, setting the tone for a gloriously vibrant, fast-paced and tense production of Peter Pan.
At times it was hard to believe that the 15 or more parts were played by only six actors. They pulled it off in style, transforming from one part to another with fantastic costumes and distinct voices.
This was a play of two halves. The first was full of blink-and-you-miss-it action. A creative use of lights made sure that the whole theatre became the stage at times, which brought us all into the story. Although it had a contemporary twist with its commentary on digital devices, the play remained close to the original story. I was slightly alarmed at a rather grizzly scene where Hook tears the guts out of an errant pirate, but the drama was quickly over and my ten-year-old did not seem traumatised. At times I wondered if the youngest viewers would be able to follow the pace of the story, but it was easy to get the gist, even if finer details might have been lost.
I preferred the slower pace after the interval, which allowed space for the troubles of Tinkerbell and others, told evocatively in song. There was a good balance of laughter and compassion for the struggling fairy, and our sympathetic feelings were further called upon throughout the second half as the theme of motherless children was explored.
Probably the most endearing and charismatic character of the play was James Burton’s Tinkerbell, who put a new spin on the classic panto device of a fairy in drag. I was won over by the daring performance of Annabelle Terry as Tiger Lily, who was so fresh and authentic. Shelley Atkinson also did a brilliant job as the disturbed Captain Hook who was plagued by the concept of Good Form. In fact, the whole cast pulled together to create a really high-calibre performance.
If you haven’t been to the North Wall Arts centre, it’s worth giving some consideration to your choice of seats. The size of the theatre makes for a wonderfully intimate experience, but if you are taking little ones they may struggle to see above heads from the third row back in the stalls.
All in all, we had a great evening – Good job, Creation!