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Park Theatre, London
PETER PAN needs no introduction — most know JM Barrie's iconic story of the mischievous, albeit endearing, boy who never grows up. Though well over a century old, the story, if you can forgive the exasperating gender stereotyping, is just as enchanting as it no doubt was when first performed.
It's a relief then that director Jonathan O'Boyle's at Park Theatre keeps true to the magic and sheer originality which make this tale so enduring. It's helped by Gregor Donnelly's set design, with a stage that beautifully transforms from the children's bedroom to Neverland and some really imaginative touches throughout.
Autumn leaves in the Darlings' house transform into their dog Nana, there's the familiar crocodile with its ticking clock and Pan even flies, when hoisted up in the air by wire.
It's not perfect, though. O'Boyle's attempt to update the story — characters have mobiles, wear trainers and Pan's outfit could rival any hipster's — is flawed by the refusal to update the characterisations.
Wendy is still the nurturing little girl who wants to be mummy, Michael and John are her boisterous little brothers who like pirates and fights, while Mr and Mrs Darling are a couple who seem to have woken up from the 1950s.
And, at over two hours long, the production does drag at times — it certainly will for the younger kids — and it clearly could do with tighter editing in parts.
But, that said, there are some wonderful performances from the cast. An adult playing a child can be a difficult characterisation to nail and, in many cases, can be difficult to watch. Yet Nickolia King-N'Da (Peter) and Rosemary Boyle (Wendy), without being too overstated, pull it off and the sinister Alexander Vlahos's Hook is as over-the-top menacing as the character should be.
A definite treat for all the family.
Runs until January 6, box office: parktheatre.co.uk
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