Another night passes and Tommy Darling remains sick. Worsening every day, Mr. and Mrs. Darling are at their wit’s end. They still have three other children to be strong for, but thankfully their mature daughter Wendy has once again assumed the role of intermittent emotional aide. As tragedy strikes, Tommy’s illness succeeds him and the family are struck by grief. But one night soon after a strange boy named Peter flies through the window and mentions a land where the Lost Boys live. Standing as the only reasonable hope for getting Tommy back, Wendy and her brothers soon agree; and with a little help from a strange fairy called Tink they fly up and away to a new land.
Ella Hickson’s nuanced script reimagines J.M. Barrie’s original work, placing Wendy very much at the heart of the action. Transforming her from the role of ‘mother’ into a pirate-battling, patriarchy-smashing and all-round powerhouse is a sure reminder of her former marginalization and is as intelligent as it is entertaining.
Max Johns’ design stylishly integrates building paraphernalia with childhood belongings to create an industrial feel in his far-away worlds. Scaffolding and foam blocks become tree-houses and bubbling oceans, speckled in and amongst balloon rainbows and suspended bathtubs as a grown-up climbing frame. It provides great potential for interesting staging, and Eleanor Rhode’s direction really optimises upon this in the larger swash-buckling battle scenes.
Unfortunately, where the production excels it is also subject to a sense of incoherency in its creative decisions. Transitions can often be clunky: especially those between Wendy’s bedroom and Neverland – which require a small army of stagehands to re-construct four beds in particularly long black-outs that serve to disrupt any sense of disbelief.
Nevertheless, Isobel McArthur brings a distinct air of authenticity to Wendy as she undergoes a transformation in herself: from the girl outlawed by make-believe due to her gender into the revolution-leading powerhouse of courage that she has never been able to express. Ziggy Heath’s Peter Pan is charming and playful and brings a sense of poignancy to the darker elements of the play: particularly towards the end of the second act when he takes Wendy up into the stars. Sally Reid plays Tink with as much wit as consideration; as the uncaring (but secretly compassionate) fairy who has Peter’s best wishes at heart to the detriment of anyone who may distract him – most notably Wendy.
With some charming stagecraft and a whole load of fairy dust, Wendy and Peter Pan is an enchanting production fit for all the family. Carefully breaking the fourth wall to transport younger audiences away as it follows the second star on the right and straight on till morning, it’s going back to the heroic battles of youth… it’s going to Neverland.
Wendy and Peter Pan runs at the Lyceum Theatre until 5th Januray 2019.