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Peter Pan – The Octagon, Bolton

Writer: Elizabeth Newman and Incubate Project

Director: Elizabeth Newman

Reviewer: Sally Cinnamon

[Rating: 3.5]

Director and Head Writer Elizabeth Newman and the team from the Octagon’s Incubate project have adapted J. M. Barrie’s most famous of plays, Peter Pan for the theatre’s Christmas festivities. Set in the 1950’s rather than the 1900’s that’s where the reworking seems to end.

Peter’s still in it, as playful and obstinate as ever as is Wendy and the Darlings, Tinkerbell, Hook, Smee and good old Nana. Perhaps the writers decided early on that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Peter Pan is, after all, a classic and Barrie one of the best and most successful children’s authors we’ve ever seen. These are big boots to fill for even the most established scriptwriters.

It’s a mainly solid show with some wonderful moments and lovely writing. The performances – particularly of the absolutely spellbinding Anna Wheatley as Tinkerbell and the deliciously camp Hook played by Christopher Villiers – are a treat and it’s clear the young audience, on the night I attended, were enjoying the proceedings.

Musical Director Barbara Hockaday has composed a splendid score. The songs give the show an altogether more magical air but there are some timing issues with the singers and the words are occasionally lost due to volume control. There’s also a lot of directional faff in the first half which feels messy and unorganised but this dissipates after the interval and it is a much stronger, cleaner and, at times, moving watch.

The two young’uns I took to Peter Pan thought I should give the show 9 stars out of 5. It’s an agreeable adaptation, although part of me would have liked to have seen a radical rewrite and, had there been clearer focus in Act One, I would have certainly asked the editor if 9 out of 5 was doable!

Photo Ian Tilton

Runs until 12th January


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