Review: Peter Pan (Troubadour White City Theatre)
The new theatre in White City opens with a revival of Sally Cookson's production
It's an awfully big adventure, stepping into a new theatre.
Troubadour White City, opening next to the old BBC Broadcasting House, smells like a freshly bought car, untouched and with a well-polished sheen. It's well placed – a stone's throw from the massive Westfield Shopping Centre, relatively accessible with nearby Central Line and Hammersmith and City Line stations. The decor is like Arket-does-the-arts, with lots of naked lightbulbs, shiny metallic girders and a pretty minimalist aesthetic. Modern and functional, but with nothing as exciting as freshly baked madeleines to write home about. The performance space itself is wide, unassuming and generous with uniformly great sight-lines, as well as, excitingly, cupholders on the seats.
The venue opens with a revival of Sally Cookson's production of Peter Pan, which has previously run at both the Bristol Old Vic and National Theatre. It's a solid bet for a first show – a recognisable family favourite in time for the summer holidays – and will no doubt be a big hit for nearby locals. The piece also fits the space well, with some nice aerial work flying the cast out over the audience in a way not possible at the National.
Cookson's reimagining of J M Barrie's timeless classic is littered with these moments of magic – be it through flight (Gwen Hales), puppeteering (Toby Olié) or some bluesy, folksy music courtesy of Benji Bower (It's worth getting there early to have a listen to the lovely Fairy Strings quintet who warm up punters). Knitwear-sporting Lost Boys, dressed by Katie Sykes as though they've emerged from a Brick Lane kilo sale, run amok on Michael Vale's designs.
But it's a long slog of a show, and the early scenes in the Darling household and passages in the Lost Boys' cave would have kids of any age feeling a bit restless. The summary execution of Hook is staged in an oddly fascistic manner: the cast stand around and wait for a crocodile to arrive, cheering on as the one-handed pirate is gulped down.
Cookson has some neat touches though. The decision to double Mrs Darling and Captain Hook (a terrifying, silver-teethed Kelly Price bringing a simmering menace to the pirate matriarch) has a nice conceptual symmetry to it – Darling the mother watching the effects time has on both her family and her marriage, while Hook is terrified of the tick-tocking of the flesh-hungry reptile.
John Pfujomena brings a loveable kiddishness to the role of Peter, compared to the punk rocker Paul Hilton at the National. But the magic moments are bitty on the bigger stage at the Troubadour, and while the new venue has a lot of potential, this version of Barrie's text just drags a bit too much to ever truly take flight.