Peter Pan’s Labyrinth – The Vaults, London

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writer: Sleeping Trees

Director: Shenoah Allen

Sleeping Trees have certainly set their stall out early. It’s barely November and they already have their Christmas show up and running at The Vaults. Peter Pan’s Labyrinth, performing until New Year’s Eve, is exactly what you expect it to be, a comedy mash up between JM Barrie’s eternal boy and David Bowie’s fantasy 1986 film which mostly works, although given the fascinating substructure underneath Waterloo, perhaps this is a missed opportunity for a promenade panto.

When Peter Pan’s lucky clock is magically broken by David Bowie, he is finally forced to grow up and move to the real world where his adult life quickly becomes a failure. Hearing that old pal Tinkerbell is getting married in Neverland, Peter must find a way back and decides to risk the Labyrinth where at the centre David Bowie can grant him a single wish – to fly once more.

Sleeping Trees have created a very daft show, one that will either have the audience roaring in surreal delight or perplexed by the slightly in-jokey collection of gags that must have evolved from some quite bizarre creative conversations. How else to explain a talking toilet that guards the heart of the labyrinth, vicious dancing rain, a recurring joke about some perverts and Kermit the Frog performing a Prince song.

The team have, though, made interesting use of the Peter Pan framework, finding new purpose for Wendy and some particularly good material for Peter’s shadow that is a comedy highlight, and a sense of what it is like to return to the same world 20-years later when everyone has moved on a bit. With only 100-minutes including interval, the show could perhaps have cut the early scenes and started with the older Peter and the travails of his real life. The synopsis claims he ‘smokes, drinks and lives off a diet of creamed Possum (look it up) and Bovril’ but the audience doesn’t see any of this.

The Labyrinth influences meld well and Dan Wye’s interpretation of Bowie as a malevolent meddler is particularly enjoyable. Wye has quite the stage presence and, in a series of outfits created by Maeve Black, certainly looks the most glamorous. The fetish for baby stealing and the series of strange goblin creatures are also characteristics of the film that Peter Pan’s Labyrinth adopts, often using some innovative puppetry created by the performers.

The remaining cast, James Dunnell-Smith, John Woodburn and Joshua George Smith bring a considerable and sustained energy to the performance, often revelling in the thrown-together and unpolished charm of it all, playing the panto hosts in sections of audience participation and responding well to opportunities for improvisation that carry the show through some of its stickier moments.

Black’s set design of craggy arches and steps is fine, but it seems a shame for the audience to be so stationary when the real-life labyrinthine Vaults are within reach, and we could follow Peter on his journey in a far more practical sense. Sleeping Trees’ production still has lots of time to run and as audiences get merrier in the run-up to Christmas this will only get cheekier.

Runs until 31 December 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Unpolished charm

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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