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Peter Pan

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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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 magic disappear.

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.

- Keith Paterson


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