Wendy & Peter Pan
YOU can always tell when Christmas has arrived at the RSC. The audience gets smaller and the chatter is louder and more excited.
But once the lights go down on the return of Wendy & Peter Pan to the RST two years after it was originally staged, those young voices are hushed and their attention firmly focused on JM Barrie’s classic which has been given a clever feminist re-working by Ella Hickson.
They watch engrossed as Peter and pals and the Darling children fly around the stage, as Peter’s subterranean home rises from the depths, and Captain Hook’s pirate ship The Jolly Roger sails onto the stage. Big applause to designer Colin Richmond.
This is not however a play simply for little people. In the best Simpsons tradition there are plenty of jokes which are very much orientated to those who have waved goodbye to childhood.
It is Wendy who wears the trousers in Jonathan Munby’s magical production. In a man’s world she is simply expected to play the damsel in distress. Only this Wendy, played with true vim and vigour by Mariah Gale who stepped into the role at the last minute, is having none of it.
She is on a mission to find sickly brother Tom – an invention by Hickson – who has been transported to Neverland, and
woe betide anyone who gets in her way. She eventually wins fellow gals to her cause, in larger than life Cockney fairy Tink (Charlotte Mills) and non-nonsense warrior Tiger Lily (Mimi Ndiweni), and the sisters set off to win the day.
Rhys Rusbatch’s Peter really is the boy who never grew up. Mainly because he was too scared to. His answer to a crisis is usually play – but Wendy pulls him through.
And when, as much to his own surprise, he ‘really’ gives Wendy a kiss – which brings a palpable gasp from the audience – one can’t help but think he’s taken a step towards maturity.
There are excellent performances throughout, from Darlings to Lost Boys, to Pirates. Darrell D’Silva’s Hook is wonderfully boo-able, while his lovelorn Baldrick-like sidekick Smee (Paul Kemp) is destined never to get the cottage, or yurt, he dreams of. As for Arthur Kyeyune’s marvellous Crocodile – he simply defies the laws of nature as he moves across the stage.
Fine festive fun – and there’s always the plank for those who disagree.
Wendy & Peter Pan runs until January 31. Visit www.rsc.org.uk for tickets and further details.