Friday, 8 December 2017

 

The Lost Boy Peter Pan at Pleasance Theatre


The story of Peter Pan has been adapted in many shapes and sizes, into other novels, for the screen and even the stage. So it's quite a feat if a new version manages to be original and stand out from the crowd. The Lost Boy Peter Pan at the Pleasance Theatre captivates audiences with an enchanting contemporary version featuring well-known pop rock tunes performed with just a few instruments. It's as whimsical as the origin story but less dark, instead capturing the magic of the written word and adding a level of poetry through its beautiful musical performances and stellar young cast of actor-musicians. 

We all know the story of the boy who doesn't want to grow up and lives in Neverland with the Lost Boys, pirates, fairies and a host of other fantastical characters. For most people this tale begins when we meet Wendy, Michael and John Darling who – entranced by Peter's stories of Neverland and the promise of being able to fly – follow him blindly to the second star to the right and then straight on til morning.

But the story starts earlier than that, when Peter is still a boy living with his a family in Kensington. And that's when we first meet him on his (awfully big) adventure at the Pleasance Theatre.

I am a huge fan of the imaginative story by J.M. Barrie and love exploring new adaptations. Whether in written form, like the deliciously dark Lost Boy by Christina Henry and beautifully illustrated MinaLima edition, or on the stage. In recent years alone I've seen Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Peter and Alice, and Peter and the Starcatcher – all of which were excellent.

This does mean, however, that I have a lot of reference points and any new version needs to have its own spark of magic that makes it unique and memorable. And The Lost Boy Peter Pan, adapted and directed by Alexandra Spencer-Jones and currently running at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington, has this aplenty with a stellar young cast, mesmerising musical performances and some wonderful set and costume designs to boot.

The show features seven actor-musicians playing multiple roles each to create the rich cast of characters featured within the famous tale. There are only very small costume changes, instead it's a diverse set of mannerisms that the performers use to differentiate between all the characters they portray. It's subtle but highly effective, and it was a delight to see actors taking centre stage to create the magic in the play, rather than elaborate set changes or dazzling design features.

I was particularly entranced by the captivating performances of Wesley Lineham who played a remarkably likeable and vulnerable Captain James Hook, a far cry from the one-dimensional Panto-esque villain he is in so many adaptations, and Hannah Haines as the bright-eyed Wendy Darling who is willing to take on the role of the mother of the Lost Boys only if Peter takes on that of the father. 

The cast were complimented well by the delightfully rearranged pop rock songs, ranging from a haunting rendition of Harry Styles' The Sign of the Times (performed stunningly by Joshua Leese) to the rather more upbeat We Were Young by Fun. It's a testimony to director Alexandra Spencer-Jones' vision for the piece and the use of an eclectic mix of instruments such as the violin, cello, drums and keyboard that well-known contemporary pieces like Intermission by The Scissor Sisters and When I Grow Up by Garbage managed to transport the audience to the magic and wonder of Neverland.

The Lost Boy Peter Pan is a charming and quietly emotional rendition of the J.M. Barrie novel. Though with the recognisable pop song melodies and a heavy dose of humour at just the right time (mostly through the delightful portrayal of Tinkerbell) it ensures it never becomes too dark for kids to enjoy alongside their adult companions. This show is a more nuanced alternative to the traditional panto this season and all the better for it.

Photo credit: The Other Richard



The Lost Boy Peter Pan is playing at the Pleasance Theatre until 7 January 2018. Book your tickets here.


🎵 Listening to: Tom Fletcher & Carrie Hope Fletcher – Love is on the Radio
🔹 Mood: Sleepy








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