Writer: J.M. Barrie
Adapted by: Deborah McAndrew
Director: Mark Babych
Composer: John Biddle
Reviewer: Ron Simpson
Anyone familiar with Deborah McAndrew’s skilful adaptations of classic novels and plays and Hull Truck’s justifiable local pride will have guessed that Peter Pan would be transformed from J. M. Barrie’s original and that Hull would be in there somewhere. So it is, but, unlike McAndrew’s A Christmas Carol two years ago when Hull’s docks became an all too convincing setting for Scrooge to operate in, the Hull connection seems laboured and unproductive this time. The fun – and there is plenty of it – comes from other sources.
The setting is Hull after the blitz. Mr. Darling is going out to a formal dinner to discuss the rebuilding of the city better than ever – Mr. Darling is thinking partly of the fame it will bring him and the point is made that this is just like Captain Hook’s lust for glory. At the end, when Wendy brings the Lost Boys home to become part of “our team” re-building the city, it’s too earnest for its own good.
In her programme note Deborah McAndrew makes it clear that her love for Peter Pan is based more on the slightly later novel than the original play which she describes as “quite dated now” – and her version is a million miles from Nina Boucicault playing Peter and Kirby’s Flying Ballet drawing the “oohs” and “aahs”. Also she makes the telling point that Peter changes too little (not at all, in fact) to be an interesting principal character – instead this is Wendy’s story.
It is Wendy’s story in two ways: it is the story of how she changes and the decisions she makes and it is the story she tells. The action proper begins in her bedroom. Her two brothers have been forced to share her room because theirs was bomb-damaged and she is acting as director for them and their mother in a drama of Smee, Starkey and Tiger Lily, parts they will later play in Neverland. Later, when Wendy is telling a story to the Lost Boys, they play out the dialogue with Father and Nana (human in this production) from the same scene – neat, and with an in-joke when the Lost Boy cast as Nana insists on playing her as a dog.
Vanessa Schofield is suitably feisty, sympathetic and Hullensian as Wendy, carrying the weight of McAndrew and Biddle’s songs with authority: there are some grand rollicking numbers – we all know what fun pirates have – but the songs with emotional weight all belong to Wendy.
Baker Mukasa (Peter) is almost a supporting player in his own show, but he is great value: wild, but not dangerous, engagingly pleased with himself, full of energy, splendidly gymnastic. Melissa Dean nicely combines the suavely sympathetic Mrs. Darling and the noble savage Tiger Lily and Ryan O’Donnell’s urbane Captain Hook contrasts effectively with his amiably thrusting Mr. Darling – but shouldn’t a pirate captain swash a few more buckles?
Jacob Butler and Aron Dochard are as dopey as you could wish for as brothers and pirates and have a terrific nautical song, while Joanna Holden brings the house down as the stroppiest Tinker Bell yet – her Nana is pretty eccentric, too!
Mark Babych never lets the pace drop via a whole series of comic adventure scenes and obtains superb cameos as Lost Boys and Pirates from Hull Truck’s Young Company. Sian Thomas plays clever variations on 1940s costume and, with the use of a revolve, Ciaran Bagnall’s designs revert to Wendy’s bed amid the colourful world of Neverland – the crocodile is pretty good, too, the bit we can see!
Runs until January 4 2020 | Image: contributed