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THE IMPOSTERS

A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Burnell and Matthew Churchill
for
threesixty
present


J. M. Barrie’s

 

Peter Pan

Abby Ford as Wendy & Ciaran Kellgren as Peter Pan

Photo by Simon Annand

 

Directed by Ben Harrison

Designed by William Dudley

Adapted by Tanya Ronder

Music Composed and Conducted by Benjamin Wallfisch

Choreography by Fleur Darkin

Sound Designed by Gregory Clarke

Lighting Designed by Mark Henderson

Flight Direction by Nicholas Hall

Puppetry Direction by Sue Buckmaster

Illusions by Paul Kieve

Musical Director – Duncan Wisbey

Flying Consultant – Lee Stephenson for Freedom Flying

 

The Threesixty Theatre

Meridian Gardens at the O2


1 December 2009 – 10 January 2010


 

 

This highly publicised production of J.M. Barrie’s beloved children’s story, originally staged in Kensington Gardens this summer, takes flight over Christmas in a purpose built venue adjacent to the O2 Arena in Greenwich. The production achieved almost instantaneous fame, not just because it was initially staged in a location almost adjacent to the author’s former home, but because it is the first production to feature 3-D 360 degree projections. The scenes depicted include: London’s late 19th century skyline as Peter Pan, Tinkerbelle and the Darling children, Wendy, John and Michael fly to Never Never Land, the deck of the Jolly Roger, pirate ship of the infamous Captain Hook, the forest undergrowth the Lost Boys call home, underwater in the lagoon where Neverland mermaids play and the cloudy trip back to old London again.

The spectacular large scale 3-D projections above the circular stage drew ooohs and aaaahs from children (many toddlers), and parents alike as the Darlings took their first flight to Neverland. But before that happened, the story placed us in the bedroom of Wendy (Abby Ford) and her brothers John (Arthur Wilson) and Michael (David Poyner) as they said goodnight to their parents who were getting ready to go out to dinner, leaving their children in the care of Nana, their large dog, cleverly played by a wonderfully floppy puppet, handled by Mouson Nouri. Somewhat worried talk by George Darling (Jonathan Hyde who also plays Captain Hook) about work prospects and being able to afford things made his conversation seemed somewhat topical, while concern about ‘the boy who appeared at the window, then left,’ by his wife Mary (Madeline Worrall) inspired curiosity in the youngsters sitting around me. Having grown up, so to speak, with Peter Pan, who conversely never does, grow up that is, I was already as prepared as I would ever be for my flight to Neverland.  However, it was apparent from all the questions being asked around me that I was in the company of many who had never even heard the story of Peter Pan, Wendy or Captain Hook before.

Abbey Ford as Wendy, offers a convincing combination of childish wonder and belief mixed with burgeoning adult indignation. Her adolescent interactions with Peter (understudy Ciaran Joyce) were tinged with bittersweet uncertainty. Joyce, who apparently had some big shoes to fill for regular Peter, Ciaran Kellgren, and he did an admirable job of making us believe not only that he was a boy who never wanted to grow up, but also one who realised he was missing out by not being part of a family. However, the real star of this show, in both of his roles as Captain Hook and George Darling, Wendy’s father was, without doubt, Jonathan Hyde, whose role as Mr. Darling was tinged with fatherly tenderness, good nature and worry, and, as Hook, well, he is formidable in that he appears to be understanding one moment and possibly capable of some measure of compassion, and fearsome the next!

 

 

 

Jonathan Hyde as Captain Hook

Photo by Simon Annand

 

 

Madeline Worrall seems a very calm mother figure, supportive and concerned. Similarly, Arthur Wilson and David Poynor are as they should be as John and Michael Darling, Wendy’s brothers, with Wilson studious and sporting as John and Poynor sturdy but somewhat cautious as younger, teddy-bear touting Michael. Sandra Maturana makes an athletic, mischievous Tinkerbelle, a role requiring almost circus worthy acrobatic skills. Mohsen Nouri performs the puppetry honours for Nana, the Darling’s trusty sheep-dog, as well as for Ostrich and the crucial, big-toothed Crocodile in search of Capt. Hook, a green skeletal yet frightening figure with a clock in his stomach.

 

 

Nana with Mohsen Nouri

Photo by Simon Annand

 

 

However, despite all its pluses, there were times when I strained to hear the dialogue, which was a great shame, as it made it difficult to maintain momentum in terms of following the story. The show is performed ‘in the round’ so there are no bad seats in regard to viewing, though I would advise those who want to hear everything that is being said to choose seats as close to the front as possible. Planes flying overhead at fairly regular intervals en don’t help, though that has also been an untimely problem at Shakespeare’s Globe as well, though not as full-on or frequently as here. The impressive projections add great excitement to the proceedings, but they also tend to create a feeling of separation between live and simulated action, and actors and audience. That said, everyone in the audience seemed to be absolutely over the moon about the flying scenes, which are gloriously realised!  And the structural design of the building itself is a real marvel, with its tonnes of equipment cleverly hidden in its umbrella like top section, out of sight of the audience, though there is always someone there to help the actors dismount from their nearly invisible flying apparatus. Music especially composed for this production by Benjamin Wallfisch is well performed and adds additional atmosphere, especially in the pirate scenes.

A word of advice – make sure you allow plenty of time to get to Meridian Gardens after you’ve arrived at the O2, as the only way to reach the purpose built venue where the show is being staged is to walk through the entire O2 Arena, as it cannot be reached in any other way.

‘Second star to the right and straight on till morning’ as Peter Pan would say by way of directions to Neverland – next stop San Francisco, as the show gets set to fly to the States in the New Year.

Barrie’s bittersweet story of Peter Pan, a tale that adults can potentially, relate to on different levels than children can, one of the dualistic things about it which makes it a truly great work of literature, in this case seems designed to appeal mainly to young children, as the production is always ‘on the move,’ never lingering on any one scene long enough to let its darker connotations emerge. Having said that, it must also be added that this is a winning production for families to enjoy, especially if they have little ones along who clap their hands when Peter asks them to if they believe in fairies and look up to the ‘skies’ in childish wonder as him and Wendy fly off to Never-Never Land.

 

 

Sandra Maturana as Tinkerbell

photo by Simon Annand

 

 

Box Office: 0844 8472517

Online booking: http://www.theo2.co.uk/event/peter-pan-20091201.html

The O2
 Greenwich

Tickets from £22.50

 Concessions available.

http://www.visitlondon.com/peterpan/

 
 
 

 

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