Wendy and Peter Pan – The Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

Adapted by Ella Hickson from the book by J.M Barrie

Directed by Elanor Rhode

Reviewer: Dominic Corr

Fantastical literary classics usually sit in the epicentre of festive cheer. From pantomime to nativities and stage adaptations of the likes of Alice in Wonderland or Narnia. One boy, who chased his shadow through London and back to Neverland flies above the rest. We have it all to look forward too – Tiger lily, the Tick-Tock crocodile, a fourth Darling child and a Tinkerbell who may well be packing…

Wait, what?

Rather than stage a traditional show, Ella Hickson’s adaptation of Peter Pan into Wendy and Peter Pan is both the story with which we are familiar but vastly different. The Royal Lyceum does what it excels at, more so than any theatre in Scotland. Building upon the original, whilst slathering it in its own creative juices.

It’s fitting that the title of the production gives top billing to Wendy, for this is far more a tale of hers and Hooks than that of Pan’s. It is Wendy’s troubles in dealing with the loss of her brother that we follow. It is Wendy who drives most of the narrative, and whilst Pan may ultimately deal the final blow – it is Wendy who outsmarts Hook. Isobel McArthur’s return to the Lyceum as Wendy is promising, but there are issues. She plays Wendy as a sister, a mother even a touching romantic notion with Pan, but we’re missing a few things. She feels a little too young – her character transition is there, but it’s a clunky one.

Perhaps the most substantial aspect is how well it balances humour with pathos. Hickson and director Elanor Rhodes understand one thing – that for all the swashbuckling, fairy flights and mermaids, Peter Pan’s story is one of mortality. Death is a constant, but that doesn’t mean it has to be understood the way we mean it. The humour can be macabre but in a deprecating sense. Dorian Simpson’s turn as Smee being the funniest performer throughout.

A manifestation of patriarchy, Captain Hook is the embodiment of men’s fears of being usurped by a younger, more virile boy. James Hook has never cowered from the boy who never grew up, but rather he has trembled at what he represents – time. Ella Hickson bluntly informs the Captain of the Jolly Roger that he and patriarchal views need only fear the thing they oppress the most: Womanhood. Something Rhode pushes with her trio of Wendy, Tigerlily and the knuckle-dusting Tink.

In a move, though, to make Mr Darling more human, sympathetic, his symbolic nature as Hook loses its footing. If anything, Bonnie Baddoo’s Mrs Darling is the one who should be donning the Captain’s hat. Regardless, both turn in performances fitting of the character. As both Hook and Darling Gyuri Sarossy is energetic but also giving dimension to Hook. In one touching scene, finally able to murder Pan, Hook instead begins to reflect on their relationship. The balance is pleasant, but it just needed a dash more of that scoundrels’ black heart.

Stage wizardry is more of an art form than rabbit pulled out of the proverbial hat. Designers, riggers and effects teams can conjure the stars, shape the earth and plunge us into the past. There is, however, just that little too much robbing us of the illusion. The flight riggings are incredible technical feats, but Max Johns limited use of set means a large amount of the Lyceums dark innards are on display.

This isn’t pantomime, nor is it a quick cash grab for name’s sake. It’s time that both little boys and now girls can witness Peter Pan and realise that maybe they want to be Wendy. Hell, if the world was filled with more of Tinkerbells and Tigerlily maybe there would be a few fewer Hooks out there. Whilst it is a fantastic production it needed dialling up. You may feel a little bit like our ravenous Crocodile – you only got a taster of the main feast.

Runs until January 5 2019 | Image: Contributed

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The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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