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Peter Pan (Newcastle upon Tyne)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Northern Stage have chosen Peter Pan as their main Christmas Show and upon entering the auditorium you are met by Neil Murrays brilliant set which literally slices the audience in two. Several rows of seats have been removed from the main auditorium so the set can is built in front of and across the area where the normal stage is. However behind this is another seating area, on what is actually the stage, so the set sits exactly between the audience.

We meet the usually array of characters as Wendy (Tilly Gaunt), Michael (Christopher Foley) and John (Mark Conway) sleep in their bedroom, Peter Pan (Louis Roberts) arrives looking for his shadow and takes the children to Neverland. Once there they meet the lost boys and fight Captain Hook (Christian Bradley), who is terrified of the crocodile. Meanwhile the only audience participation is when Tinkerbell (Faye Marsay) swallow the poison meant for Peter and we clap to save her life.

Director Erica Whyman uses adults as the main Darling children and it does work, especially Tilly Guant as Wendy. But Davie Rae as Nana the dog and the magnificent, glittering clockwork crocodile, steals the show. However at the curtain call he only appears as his other character No Name, which left a few children questioning why they had not seen either the dog or the crocodile at the end as they left the theatre.

The staging allows the younger members of the audience to use their imagination as the bedroom furniture is used in Neverland and turns in to Hook ship. But it gives no opportunity for flying so we are left with the main characters just once being hoisted up a few feet and trundled the width of the stage. There was no swooping over the audience on the way to Neverland, which would have added so much more to the already great setting.

The first act is the stronger of the two and the increase noise from the younger members of the audience was a sure sign they were getting restless towards the end. But around me there were quite a few questions over the last scene when after the children start to make their way home from Neverland we next see a heavily pregnant Wendy walk up the stairs of the empty bedroom accompanied by one of her brothers in an army uniform. While the adults realised we had shot forward many years the children around us were totally lost and a lot of explaining was going on.

Previous Northern Stage Christmas shows have been Hansel and Gretel and the excellent Christmas Carol, but Peter Pan, although looking magnificent and having many great moments, does not quite match its predecessors.


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