Writer: Geraldine McCaughrean
Adaptor/Director: Theresa Heskins
Reviewer: Carol Lovatt
Everyone knows the story of Peter Pan, or so it seems. The story of a little boy who can fly and lives in Neverland along with other lost boys and Tinkerbell and her mischievous band of fairies. Peter’s days are spent making Captain Hook’s life as problematic as possible while creating havoc to pirates in general and others who sail too close for comfort. It is a narrative we all love and lament over but have you ever wondered whether the story continued and if so, what became of Peter?
Peter Pan in Scarlet, written by Geraldine McCaughrean, is the official sequel to the much-loved Peter Pan and Wendy by the acclaimed J M Barrie and it tells the story of some of the characters once they have all grown up, post the Great War with all its upheaval, when they have children and responsibilities of their own. As such, it is a fascinating piece of writing that has now been transferred to the stage by the New Vic’s Director Theresa Heskins and co-produced by the Oxford Playhouse.
In many ways, Peter Pan in Scarlet is very much a post-modern piece of theatre. It is Peter Pan deconstructed and recreated in a powerful and abstract format. It is the novel but not how we know it and it is, therefore, new, exciting and enticing. The ‘Darlings’ are not how they were in the original book, they are now older, wiser and to some extent, sadder. One is missing as a result of the carnage of the battlefield and that omission is tangible. The lynchpin, of course, remains Wendy and it is she, a central character from the original novel, who yearns for the prospect of a life free from hurt and one full of fun and daring escapades and a return to the joys of childhood and an escape from the burden of adult existence. It is at that point that the new story begins.
A play huge on imagination and daring in both staging and interpretation, Peter Pan in Scarlet centres on the premise that when someone puts on another person’s clothes they become that individual and transform from the recognisable to something quite ‘other’ and, in this case, something not necessarily very likeable. The scarlet coat of Captain Hook is the key to Peter’s transformation, which challenges the friendships of those who surround him and care for him.
The very talented cast is the fabric that keeps this complex and technically challenging play together. The energy of the actors is tantamount to the continual vibrancy of a story that has so many twists and turns, literally and metaphorically, before it comes to a thought-provoking conclusion. The impressive Andrew Pollard as Ravello/Hook gives an extremely unnerving performance as the latter who is continually the nemesis of Peter and his motley crew. Mei Mac is spellbinding as TinkerBell and must surely be circus trained to fulfil her role of engaging in some of the acrobatic stunts concerning rope work. It is the scope of the imaginative scenery that ensures that the cast is flying sky high, which makes this production so unique and mesmerising. Michael Hugo as Fireflyer and is a talent like no other in his capacity to amuse and engage.
Isaac Stanmore is electric in the title role and is clearly a talent to look out for in future productions and beyond. Rebecca Killick as Wendy plays the part with both exuberance and stoicism as she organises and comforts in equal measure and Suzanne Ahmet is an absolute joy to watch as she executes her role as Tootles with boundless energy and oodles of joie de vivre. It is also good to hear the musical talents as well as the acting capability of the cast under the musical direction of James Atherton, also the composer. In particular, Jonathan Charles who plays Slightly, is worth mentioning in particular as he provided some very pleasant tuneful interludes with the clarinet as well as playing a multitude of other instruments.
Credit due also to the memorable choreography by Beverly Edmunds as the play is a continuum of non-stop dance and performance that has both intricacy and inspiration in equal measure. All in all, this is an intriguing production that is as fascinating and insightful on the original ideas of the Barrie novel as it is on the complexities of the human psyche in the sequel. Peter Pan in Scarlet is an interesting piece of theatre in every context.
Runs until 6August 2016 | Image: Contributed