Monday, 14 January 2013

Peter Pan - Belvoir Street Theatre

Yes, I went to what is, essentially, a kids show. Which ... well, I don't do that often. Largely because of my hatred of children, as an audience. But given that J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan" was essentially an exercise of "Theatre as spectacle", and Belvoir Street has a low celing, is essentially one room and generally focuses on the coupla-actors-in-a-room stuff ... I was intrigued to see how they'd do it.

And the answer is, of course, creatively. A lot of J.M. Barrie survives into Tommy Murphy's adaptation, which keeps the story halfway between now-and-then, with a cast of 9 playing dressups in a children's bedroom over around 90 minutes - all the essential bits are covered, with pirates, crocodile, Nana-the-dog and even the flying, all realised with maximum imagination. Meyne Wyatt has all the egocentricity and charm of Peter Pan. As his nemesis, Captain Hook, Charlie Garber is quite gorgeously ridiculous (though he falls a little flat as Mr Darling). Geraldine Hackwill's Wendy is maybe slightly sabotaged by having to be the most responsible of the characters - she seldom gets a chance to really abandon herself over to fun, but she serves the material well. As for the rest, doubling and tripling (and twinning) in various roles, there is something quite irresistable about adult actors being this playful. There's a pure sense of glee coming across the footlights.

If I have a slight resistance, it's that ... not a lot of subtext survives this version. The ending is suitably poignant (and the last word resonates massively), but elsewhere, the wider mediations on childhood and the costs of growing up don't really get a lot of space (given... well, these are adult actors, and they don't appear to be particularly unable to enjoy themselves). But that's a theatre critic's problem rather than an audience problem. The rest of it is good fun for anybody who was ever a child and wants to enjoy it again.