When J.M Barrie wrote Peter
Pan, I doubt he would have imagined it would enjoy such a long life. The story has been filmed, musicalised for the stage by both
Bernstein and Jule Styne, Disneyfied and perennially pantomimed. It
has been given major stage adaptations by the RSC and the National
Theatre. Now, the National Theatre of Scotland in a collaboration
between director John Tiffany and writer David Greig has given the
haunting tale a major makeover with mixed results.
The idea of setting the story in Scotland at the end of the 19th
century as the massive Forth Rail Bridge nears completion is a valid
one. Removing the story from the tweeness of Edwardian drawing rooms is
to be applauded. However in heightening the darker, psychological
elements of the tale, they have also succeeded in making much of the
Designer Laura Hopkins dominates the
stage with three impressive spans of the great bridge but the design
ultimately hinders the onstage action. Rather gloomy lighting and muddy
sound design doesn't help much in clarifying the action.
As Peter, RSAMD student Kevin Guthrie
gives a feisty and charismatic performance, and fellow student Kirsty
Mackay is a strong Wendy, practical and commanding. However, none of the
rest of the cast make much of an impression. Some of the ideas that
Greig highlights are intriguing. The battle between Hook and Peter - the latter fears becoming the man he sees in the former, who in turn fears the passing
of time. There are also some good lines that resonate with the
predominantly young audience.
There are many collaborators listed in
the programme and I suspect that is part of the problem. It is a pity
because some of the ideas work extremely well. But for every
Tinkerbell, an exciting flying ball of fire, there is a Tiger Lily,
bizarrely transformed into a she-wolf by two actresses. There is no central vision to carry forward the story
in a clear and exciting way. Tiffany occasionally creates dramatic and
imaginative pictures. Those successes compound the disappointment that
what could have been a terrific reinvention of a classic and profound
story, does not quite come off.