Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Peter Pan - Nuffield Theatre Southampton

Peter Pan by JM Barrie
Music by Simon Slater
Lyrics by JM Barrie & Patrick Sandford
Nuffield Theatre 29th Nov - 12th Jan
Directed by Patrick Sandford
Review by Becky Middleton

Peter Pan at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton is a lively adaptation of the popular children’s classic novel. The production was professionally and impressively staged on a modest financial budget, but not a penny was spared on ensuring that the show was a magical experience for youngsters and adults alike.

The well-loved characters were brought alive by a sterling cast who demonstrated boundless energy and enthusiasm, as well as excellent audience interaction. Both Peter Pan, (James Daley) and Wendy (Dana Ferguson) were captivating and memorable as the young protagonists. Daley leapt about the stage, relishing his role as the boy who never grew up, and with a sprinkling of fairy dust and a few happy thoughts, Wendy, Michael and John Darling followed closely behind.

True to form, the predominantly youthful audience booed and cheered in all the right places, expertly encouraged by David Rubin in his captivating double guise as both a mischievous Mr Darling and the treacherous Captain Hook. Hook was of course stalked throughout by a giant ticking crocodile. Cue shouts of ‘it’s behind you’ until he was eventually swallowed up.

Audience participation was paramount, so much so that giant super soakers were produced in the second half to drench surprised onlookers with jets of water. Two bewildered young girls from the audience aged seven and three, were brought onto the stage to participate in the action as a pirate; learning dance moves and words to graduate from pirate school, encouraged by the brilliant Bristolian Smee played by Andy Spiegel. ‘The Smee Special’ dance, which involved a precarious wiggling of the hips and shoulders to an upbeat tune, was a highlight of the pirate comedy ensemble, which also consisted of Starkey, (Paul Benzing) Mullins, (Michael Cole) and Cecco, (Sean Wildey)

The lost boys were enchanting and certainly deserved the big cheers they received at the play’s close.

The stage entrance and exits were cleverly used to full effect, especially so when the mermaid ‘swam’ below the waves; an unexpected exit from the brief and largely motionless character. The set was colourful and versatile, with clever use of different levels to draw the audience’s attention away from centre stage all of the time.

In keeping with the light-hearted theme, the use of song punctuated the narrative effectively, but perhaps a little too much so. The lyrics were often flat and obviously intended to rhyme at the end of each line, with the barely disguised percussionists at the back of the stage providing the predominant musical accompaniment.

This truly is a show for both parents and children, with enough swashbuckling action and humour to keep both parties entertained until the final bows.
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