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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

J.M. Barrie’s

 

Peter Pan

 

 

Directors - Timothy Sheader & Liam Steel

Set Designer – Jon Bauser

Costume Designer – Jon Morrell  

Puppet Designer/Director – Rachel Canning

Composer & Sound Score – Nick Powell  

Lighting Designer – Rick Fisher

Sound Designer – Nick Lidster for Autograph  

 

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

15 May – 14 June 2015

 

In the magical surroundings of Regent’s Park, this performance of Peter Pan opens in a World War I field hospital instead of the usual nursery. This may be a sweet nod to George Llewelyn Davies who was one of the boys who inspired Barrie’s tale and lost his life in the war. The area around the vast stage represents trenches, with galvanise and a tattered union flag framing the action. The wooded area behind the stage provides solace for musicians under the direction of Candida Caldicot. Nurses tend to wounded soldiers with more than a dash of maternal care. A delivery of post from home lifts spirits and a kindly nurse animatedly begins reading a captivating tale called Peter Pan. The escape to Neverland is imminent and the arrival of a sprightly, curious Peter Pan (Hiran Abeysekera) is filled with promise.

Hiran Abeysekera plays Peter with endearing enthusiasm and though he could get away with a little more boldness, his adventurous spirit is perfectly portrayed and the admiration the Lost Boys have for him is understandable. Covered in leaves and undergrowth and adeptly sailing through the air, he is a convincing leader and in his fearlessness is a worthy target of the playful jealous rivalry teased out between Wendy Darling (Kae Alexander) and Tinker Bell (Rachel Donovan). In a brave departure from the usual naughty fairy interpretation Tinker Bell is a cheeky, squeaky puppet made of old lamps, calling to mind Disney’s 2008 creation, WALL-E. Her arrival is announced by the tinkle of bells and in the capable hands of Rachel Donovan she forms a focal point of each scene she is present in.

Flight scenes and fight scenes are cleverly and extravagantly choreographed and are perhaps the highlight of a visually stunning production. Captain Hook’s (David Birrell) coup of pirates form a motley crew of quintessential baddies, costumed to perfection by Jon Morrell. Hook and Peter’s ongoing rivalry is comically bookended by the Hook-hungry crocodile perpetually present in the background. Excellent puppetry is not limited to the snappy crocodile and nimble Tinker Bell either - ethereal mermaids and fish swoosh around the stage in expert hands at intervals.

 

 

The space at Regent’s Park oozes potential and this production puts it to full use. The stairs and lawns which run into the audience are in frequent use, which creates an immersive feel; we are not simply observing Neverland but have travelled there too. In a particularly heartening scene, Wendy flies to safety over the crowd, pulled along by a mere kite. The undersides of the beds double as brilliant floral displays and a house for Wendy is magically constructed from these beds and some floorboards in another particularly captivating scene, as the Lost Boys try to convince her to stay and mother them.

Sound is percussion-heavy, which is livening as well as a reminder of the march to the trenches pointed to in the opening scenes. Some wartime songs also make an appearance, including a rousing rendition of “Pack Up Your Troubles”. Tamara Young’s harp-playing is evocative and accomplished. Under the direction of Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel all the separately proficient elements of the production make for a fantastic and memorable Neverland. I expect many children and grown-ups alike will happily be swept away by the magic of the first production of another very exciting season at Regent’s Park.

 

 

Box Office:  0844 826 4242

Online Bookings: www.openairtheatre.com
Open Air Theatre
Inner Circle, Regent's Park
London NW1 4NU
Recommended for ages 9+
 
 
 

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