Lost Boy (Charing Cross Theatre)
Phil Wilmott's show, which had a short run at the Finborough Theatre earlier this year, opened at the Charing Cross Theatre last night (14 January 2014)
In Lost Boy, writer Phil Wilmott sets out to address the death of innocence of young men during the First World War. He has hit upon an original way to do this: by imagining Peter Pan as a captain in the British Army, travelling to the front line to fight for the glory of his country, but mainly for the heart of his childhood love Wendy Darling.
The majority of the show is an elongated dream sequence, imagined by Captain George Llewellyn Davies (Steven Butler), one of the adopted sons of Peter Pan author J M Barrie, as he snatches some sleep in the trenches. He dreams himself as Captain Peter Pan, Wendy as his sweetheart, the Lost Boys as his soldiers, fairy Tinker Bell as a prostitute and Captain Hook as a higher ranking General and, bizarrely, a music hall magician.
The show does succeed as a musing on the loss of innocence. We see Peter transported into the real world, initially naïve, rambunctious and oblivious to the social niceties of wartime London, but gradually transformed into a man susceptible to feminine wiles and the lure of a ranking position in the army.
Amongst the stand-out performances are Grace Gardner as Wendy Darling, demure, innocent but determined, and Joanna Woodward as a spirited but tragic Tinker Bell/lady of the night. Both have strong vocals, and Woodward demonstrates that she can successfully play both comedy (in a scene with Captain Hook, played by Andrew C Wadsworth) and tragedy (in a number where she bemoans wasting her life hating Wendy for stealing away Peter).
The most enjoyable songs are the big production numbers, which go against the tone of the rest of the show and allow the ensemble to let loose. In one, Michael Darling (Joseph Taylor) advocates the joys of being a music hall performer, and the witty second act opener sees John Darling (Richard James-King) explaining the basics of Jungian Dream Analysis (no, really).
However, though the premise is interesting and the performers are dedicated, as a whole the show ends up feeling a bit clichéd and lacking in sparkle. The music is ‘nice' but not noteworthy, and there is a sprinkling of hackneyed innuendo that feels rather out of place. As a result, the whole thing never quite takes off.