Thursday, 4 December 2008

Peter Pan - West Yorkshire Playhouse

Peter Pan by JM Barrie
Music: George Stiles
Lyrics: Anthony Drewe
Book: Willis Hall
Director: Rachel Kavanaugh
Reviewer: Nicola Sharp Age 14

From the lighting of the first gas-lamp, to the fading of the final star, Peter Pan at the West Yorkshire Playhouse was a phenomenal success! Based on JM Barrie’s original play, this musical adventure had been tuned to near perfection.

The story began as soon as you entered through the theatre doors which had been wonderfully decorated like the children’s bedroom, as though leading you into Neverland itself. From the moment the lights went down, the musicians began to play and the actors appeared on stage, the magic began. The songs stuck in your head and you couldn’t help but try to hum along. The Storyteller (Alwyne Taylor) led us through the play, like a favourite aunt, her powerful, reassuring voice describing the familiar story you saw unfolding before you.

James Gillan as Peter Pan was fantastic. His part contained a lot of singing, dancing and sword-fighting with Captain Hook (David Birrell) all of which was totally convincing. Amy Lennox as Wendy Darling also played a strong role. She and James perfectly portrayed the differences between Peter’s and Wendy’s views of growing up. I also thought that although his part was relatively small, Jake Abbott (aged 8) playing Michael was excellent, warming the hearts of the audience as he clutched his trusty teddy bear.

The pirate crew was led by the well-known Captain Hook, who we all love to boo. He was eagerly followed by the trusty Smee (Martin Callaghan), who was so hilarious that you didn’t have the heart to boo him. With the 5 other pirates who followed his lead in trying to catch Peter, they performed numerous, hilarious songs.

There was another cheeky character the adventure wouldn’t be complete without: Tinkerbell, the little fairy everyone loves, darted around the stage magically, twinkling cherry-red. Her cute little voice charmed the audience immediately and she managed to rummage through toys, books and drawers without a stage-hand in sight! My whole family is still trying to work out how she did it! It must be magic!

The scenery was traditional and very effective, just how you imagine Neverland to be. The costumes were a work of art too but those of Nana and the crocodile were absolutely amazing! Nana, the Darlings’ doggy nurse-maid, had a fantastic and also amusing costume. But the crocodile was something else! At the cue of a tick-tocking clock, onto the stage in a large, green, patchwork costume plodded the crocodile, which must have been at least 12ft long! No wonder Captain Hook was so scared of him!

There were many memorable moments throughout the adventure, but one which stood out was Scene 3 - The Flight to Neverland. Stars filled the stage and Peter and the 3 Darling children flew through the air, filling the audience with wonder.

Unlike in a pantomime, there was very little audience participation. However, the enthusiasm with which everyone proclaimed “I DO believe in fairies!” showed how much the performance had touched everyone. I would definitely recommend Peter Pan to people of all ages and would love the chance to go again myself!

Photos: Catherine Ashmoore
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