Peter Pan Is Flying High At National Theatre
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There’s a difficult balance with a family show. How do you make it enjoyable for both children and adults? Too much slapstick and the adults are hitting the bar in the interval, but a complex narrative can leave children perplexed. Sally Cookson and Mike Akers have almost achieved perfection in this thoroughly modern yet traditional retelling of the Peter Pan story. There are more than enough witty references and wry touches of nostalgia for the adults and enough action and moments of comedy and magical wonder to enchant the children (as well as the adults who’ve never grown up).
We’re presented with a practical Wendy (Madeleine Worral), who could happily inhabit an Enid Blyton book as she bosses her younger brothers about. Peter Pan is played to perfection by Paul Hilton as a cross between an eccentric Doctor Who and a less spiteful Drop Dead Fred.
Much like The National’s 2015 Christmas hit show I Want My Hat Back, there’s a retro hipster vibe to proceedings. Neverland is a paint splattered punk haven, brimful of artfully chosen rubbish: the lost boys ride around on vintage Chopper bikes and use tin cans for phones. The lilting band of the Darling’s house becomes rockier and proceedings are appropriately anarchic with a well chosen set list.
Mention must go to the two escapees from last year’s much maligned Wonder.land. Lois Chimimba is a fearsome Mad Max style Tiger Lily and Anna Francolini is a magnificently crazed Hook who looks like she got her pirate outfit by pinning Vivienne Westwood against the wall with her cutlass.
The original play was due to feature a female Hook until a man elbowed his way into the role. Francolini stepped into this role by fairer means after Sophie Thompson broke her wrist. Bad news for Thompson but not an issue for the show as Francolini is a complete joy to watch.
It’s a fun show with a poignant undertone. There’s flying aplenty (of course), camp mermaids, synchronised swimming under the light of mirror balls, and a few set tricks that left the children (and us) agog. This isn’t your typical pantomime Pan but nor is it too highbrow to be fun. Cookson has proved that much like her hit version of ‘Jane Eyre’ you can breathe new life into an often performed classic.
Peter Pan continues at the National Theatre until 4 February 2017. Tickets are £15-£65 with a limited number of discounts for each performance. Londonist attended on a complimentary press ticket.
Last Updated 05 December 2016