Peter Pan

Review by Flossie Waite
Polka Theatre
21st November 2014 – 14th February 2015
For ages 6+

In this re-imagining, the classic tale is set in the late 1950s/early 1960s. When the boy who never grew up appears, he pops his collar; a James Dean wannabe who slicks his hair as he chases his shadow. This is Peter Pan in puberty, no longer the otherworldly boy, and fashioning him like a real world movie star brings him back down to earth.

Peter Glanville’s adaptation places the story just after the birth of the ‘teenager’, and Peter Pan isn’t the only thing that comes through the Darling window. When Michael and John are fast asleep, Wendy quietly retrieves a wireless hidden on the windowsill so she can listen to rock and roll music under the covers. Wendy has always been on the cusp of growing up – it’s her last night in the nursery after all – but this production pushes her over the edge. It’s tricky to make the source material support this reading, and at times it makes the production seem more dated. Her rebellious streak and fondness for teddy boys makes excitement over mermaids and fairies stick out.

Likewise, Peter’s disinterest in Wendy as anything other than a mother figure comes despite him thrusting his hips like Elvis in a leather jacket. Peter waits outside Wendy’s window to listen to her fairytales, but he looks more like a secret boyfriend sneaking into the house.

Few productions of Peter Pan stick closely to the original script and none can include all of the episodes and characters of the play and books. It’s always a case of selecting and shaping, and this small-scale production makes space for the Never Bird, who is all too often forgotten, and finds imaginative ways to fly in limited space. Still, the epic story feels too big for this stage – apart from Wendy and Peter, the other four members of the cast play up to four characters each, and focus strays into the logistics of making this work rather than the performance.

More harmonica than panpipes, this production justly tries to bring something new to a tale that has been told for 110 years, but flies just short of second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning.

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