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Review Round-up: Peter Pan a Flying Success?

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John Tiffany’s production of David Greig’s new adaptation of Peter Pan is a co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland and the Barbican, where it opened last week (13 May 2010) following a run at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow.

The production transplants the action of JM Barrie’s popular children's story from Kensington Gardens to Barrie's native Scotland in the heyday of the Victorian age.

Newcomer Kevin Guthrie takes the title role, alongside Kirsty Mackay as Wendy, Cal MacAninch as both Mr Darling and Captain Hook and Annie Grace as Mrs Darling. The production marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of JM Barrie, and plays at the Barbican until 29 May before returning to Scotland at Eden Court, Inverness (1-5 June) and the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (8-12 June).

  • Michael Coveney in Whatsonstage.com (four stars) – “The adaptation by David Greig and the production by John Tiffany falters only in the representation of Tiger Lily as a pair of she-wolves of no fixed fictional abode, but the central conceit is so audacious and imaginative that the show wins you over … And in Kevin Guthrie, still a student at drama school, the NTS has uncovered a new star. Guthrie’s Peter Pan is a marvellous, muscular maverick, first seen walking down the side of the proscenium into the little Darlings’ bedroom in search of his shadow … Tiffany’s production, and the ensemble performance, is irresistible … the NTS has built a brand new bridge between Barrie’s legend and his own Scottish roots - and reclaimed the masterpiece as their own.”
  • Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph (four stars) – “John Tiffany’s production for the National Theatre of Scotland is spectacular ... Kevin Guthrie brings a feral wildness to Peter and a sense of terrible hurt … Kirsty Mackay is a beautiful and moving Wendy ... Best of all perhaps is Cal MacAninch as a Mr Darling who feels inferior in his own household, before reappearing as a terrifying tattooed and shaven-headed Captain Hook ... There are weak spots. Humour is in short supply, and, though the flying is terrific, it is unforgiveable to give us no sight of the crocodile. Nevertheless, this remains a thrillingly fresh, emotional and unapologetically disturbing vision of Barrie’s extraordinary story.”
  • Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times (four stars) - “Forget the tight-clad sprite from the Disney movie. The Peter Pan in the National Theatre of Scotland’s inspired new version is a fit, bare-chested feral boy … Kevin Guthrie invests him with charisma and adolescent rebelliousness and makes a spectacular first entrance by striding down the wall … Greig’s drama is full of troubling insights … And as Peter battles with Hook, a tattooed hard man (Cal MacAninch), you feel the boy is physically fending off the man he dreads becoming ... Questions about time and loss swirl around. John Tiffany directs a vigorous, muscular production on Laura Hopkins’ rust-coloured set … The narrative plods occasionally and some ideas fall flat …. But this Peter Pan brings a glittering dark twist to a familiar tale.”
  • Henry Hitchings in the Evening Standard (three stars) – “Greig has refashioned the play as a dystopian vision of lost innocence, and there are even echoes of Dante. His writing feasts on ambivalence. What it lacks, though, is joie de vivre. Kevin Guthrie, who’s still at drama school, impresses in the title role … Arguably the most beguiling character, though, is Tinkerbell - not a person, but a floating, dancing ball of flame, brilliantly achieved by illusion designer Jamie Harrison. The production is full of bold gestures … Yet the emotional palette isn’t rich enough, and the tragedy even at the climax needs more emphasis. A persistent problem is the lack of pace … There’s a shortage of momentum … Adults may relish the technical ambition but this audacious refashioning of Barrie’s masterpiece doesn’t truly fly.”
  • Lyn Gardner in the Guardian (three stars) - "The heart never lurches and the throat never scratches, partly because Kevin Guthrie's Peter doesn't display sufficient heartless charm to be mesmerising. Kirsty Mackay's Wendy is no Edwardian good girl, but there is no sexual tension or longing in her relationship with Peter ... The main difference from Barrie's original is the introduction of the Forth Bridge's construction, built using its own gangs of lost boys, whose childhoods were destroyed by their labour. Barrie wasn't above moralising himself ... but the bridge device creates a shift that makes it far less magical and powerful. The nursery window remains ajar for a thrilling Peter Pan."

    - Tom Williams

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