Peter Pan Sets Spirits Soaring In Regent's Park

By BelindaL Last edited 97 months ago
Peter Pan Sets Spirits Soaring In Regent's Park ★★★★☆ 4

A scene from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie @ Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. Directed by Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel.
(Opening 21-05-15)
©Tristram Kenton 05/15
(3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550  Mob 07973 617 355)email:
Hiran Abeysekera and David Birrell as Peter Pan and Hook. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

Peter Pan takes place in Never Land, far away from the cares of adult life. And Regent's Park Open Air Theatre provides the perfect escape and setting for this. It's as if Tinker Bell herself had sprinkled everything with fairy dust: the trees positively rustle with magic.

The story begins in the First World War with a busy hospital full of bloodied soldiers, clutching at their wounds. One happens to have by his bedside a copy of Peter Pan and so the story we all know so well begins to unfold. The time period is apt — the boy soldier could well be George Llewelyn Davies, who partly inspired the story and later took Barrie’s book to the Front before he was killed there, but the resonances are subtle instead of chilling. The theme is wisely used stylistically for an audience of all ages, rather than taking the tale to darker depths.

More important for us and for our eponymous flying hero, is the idea of having fun. Hiran Abeysekera’s Pan is as wired on energy, exuberance and living in the moment as the contraptions that take him looping and diving above us. There’s a nice moment when all the Lost Boys desert Peter, but what does he do? Sob for two seconds then fall fast asleep, not yet having acquired the adult tic of reflection. Kae Alexander’s Wendy is his match: flying around the stage even when not on her apparatus. Her evident enjoyment of authority as she wags a finger at the unruly Lost Boys is a nice contrast to Peter’s anarchic disregard for authority — his response is to chop off the hands or heads of the adults in this world, though they are pirates.

Visually, there's always something to enjoy: a tick-tocking crocodile, proper sword-fighting, the amusement of makeshift props with umbrellas becoming jellyfish or a helmet the finishing touch on a smoking chimney.

There could have been a more sinister take; stories of children disappearing out of windows is actually quite macabre if you think about it, but in Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel's production the focus is on an uplifting sense of magic — and we were happy to be swept away by the fun.

Peter Pan is at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre until 14 June. Tickets £36 - £60 (under 18s £25). Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

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Last Updated 26 May 2015