Last night we were taken on an enchanting journey to Neverland courtesy of the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. If you think you might want to see this show, I would advise you to save reading this review for after you’ve seen it, because it will contain spoilers. However, I will say straightaway that I would definitely recommend you do go and see it, because it’s brilliant!
It was only the second night of the show, and a reduced price preview that we’d booked ages ago with some vouchers I won for a blogging prize in my old job. Before going into the theatre itself we had a wander around. It had changed a lot since I went in my university days, the tower being completely new (and unfortunately not open for a pre-theatre view of Stratford). There was an absolutely magnificent Christmas tree in one of the cafe areas:
There were quite a few clever jars dotted about with ‘fairies’ projected into them so that they looked as though they were moving around – they certainly got you in the mood for a trip to Neverland.
The stage at the RST is an Elizabethan style one that juts into the audience, and we had really good seats at the side and near the front.
When we arrived, the place was swarming with children and yappy teenagers, but when everyone was sitting down it was clear that the adults vastly outnumbered the youngsters. The first thing that surprised me about the performance was that the actors were all adults, which I thought was a good thing as child actors can be a little annoying. The three Darling boys were very entertaining. If you imagine a stereotypical Oxford student, that would be them. Peter Pan was accompanied by about half a dozen ‘shadows’, who were very good – I got the impression they might be a dance troupe, as they were beautifully choreographed.
Wendy, a character aged 13, was played by someone whom we later learned was 27! I thought she was one of the weakest actors – I’m no expert, but she seemed to be overacting and I couldn’t always tell whether the hesitation in her lines was because she was overacting or because she was actually struggling to remember her lines. The two other actresses were somewhat better – a rather brooding Tiger Lily and a very amusing Tinkerbell, who took everyone by surprise by starting off as a tiny light flying around with a little mouse voice and then morphing into a bitchy, plus-size Essex girl character dressed like a pink ballerina with wings. Brilliant!
Captain Hook was excellently portrayed by Guy Henry, whom I thought I recognised from somewhere. I looked him up on IMDB when we got home, and it turned out that he had had a minor role in Harry Potter and he also played Mr Collins in the ITV series Lost in Austen, which I loved. He was rather different in his pirate guise though, and a good villain. His own arch-nemesis, the Crocodile, representing his battle with time, was one of the best aspects of the performance. Dressed in a top hat, long green leather coat and a very long stripy scarf, he looked like a cross between the Mad Hatter, and Morpheus from the Matrix, holding a pocket watch. He was fabulously enigmatic and moved across the stage doing the splits quite a few times and strutting authoritatively the rest of the time.
The Lost Boys were great, particularly Curly, who had a strong Welsh accent.
The set was stunning, with the actors often ‘flying’ on wires and a proper pirate ship moving around the stage during parts of the performance. I was particularly impressed when the whole stage floor lifted up to reveal a second set, representing the house under the ground in which Peter and the Lost Boys lived.
The language had been subtly updated with anachronistic sayings such as “and the way he’s, like…” or “What happened? Captain Hook happened”, which was quite funny I thought. There was definitely enough there to keep adults entertained just as much as children, a bit like a panto but more sophisticated. One little girl in the audience clearly thought she was at a panto, as during one moment when the pirates were sneaking up behind one of the characters she cried, “He’s behind you!”, much to the amusement of the cast and the audience, the latter even applauding her!
It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, topped off by ice creams in the interval – salted caramel for me and double choc for Lee. Yum!
Wendy and Peter Pan is on in Stratford until March, so you’ve got loads of time to go and see it!