Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
The story of Peter Pan is a perennial Christmas favourite for family audiences. This clever reworking by Ella Hickson, created for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2013, is adapted not from JM Barrie’s original play, but from from the extended version he published as a novel in 1911.
As you might deduce from the rearranged title, this is an altogether more feminist version of the story. Instead of being a helpless victim throughout the action, Wendy (Isobel McArthur) is clearly one for taking the initiative and, as it turns out, she’s also a dab hand with a cutlass. She first meets Peter (Ziggy Heath) shortly after the death of her brother, Tom (Keiran Gallagher); a year later, her parents, still unable to regain their equilibrium, appear to be drifting apart. Then Tom reappears and takes Wendy and her two other brothers, John (George Naylor) and Michael (Christian Ortega), off to join the Lost Boys in Neverland…
This rumbustious, sprawling adventure seems to delight in subverting audience expectations. Hook (Gyruri Sarossy) is not the usual sneering fop, but an oafish yob who’s beginning to feel the inexorable advance of old age. His bosun, Smee (Dorian Simpson), is a pernickety, snarky sort of fellow, who also throws a few good dance moves when he’s in the mood. Tink (Sally Reid) is a punky Glaswegian in dark glasses and sparkly leggings who is well versed in caustic remarks. There are sword fights aplenty (one of which I fear goes on a tad too long), a spectacular pirate ship set and, of course, there’s quite a bit of flying, though sometimes this feels a little too careful to be truly magical. I expect that will develop as the performers become more confident with the ropes and harnesses.
Needless to say, the younger members of the audience (at whom this is mostly aimed) have a great time with this, although one little chap in front of us does seem a bit overwhelmed by an unexpected visit from a very large and hungry crocodile; and there’s enough depth here for the big kids in the audience not to feel left out. The most interesting idea is an allegory about bereavement and the need for people to move on with their lives. Perhaps, Hickson seems to be saying, Neverland is something more than just a place for aimless kids to hang out.
At any rate, those with restless youngsters seeking entertainment could do a lot worse than head down to the Lyceum for their yuletide fix. This is sprightly stuff that should keep the whole family thoroughly entertained.