Peter Pan

J.M.Barrie, adapted by David Greig
National Theatre of Scotland
Barbican Theatre

Production photo

With the National Theatre of Scotland imprimatur attached to a show, a good night out is almost guaranteed. When the creative team involves David Greig, John Tiffany and Davey Anderson, not to mention J.M.Barrie, it becomes a certainty.

Cleverly, Tiffany and his cohorts turn Barrie's classic tale of the boy who never grew up into something dark with a modern feel, without ever damaging the spirit of the original.

Kevin Guthrie's muscular Scots Peter, first seen walking horizontally down a wall, has a devilish element, exemplified by demonic horns.

His attractions for the Darling family are obvious, replacing their stultified Victorian morality with a sense of fun and adventure.

To set the scene for a play by a Scottish playwright, Greig not only moves the location of the Darling household to Edinburgh but makes Father an engineer involved in the construction of the Forth Bridge, which forms a major element of Laura Hopkins' traditionally conceived set, converting into an island, a pirate ship and even ticking crocodile, when required.

The family home may be comfortable and a wheeled, double-womanned Nana friendly but the lure of flight offered by Peter soon tempts the three Darling children into the adventure of a dreamtime.

While the motivations of John and Michael are straight out of the original, Wendy, given just the right degree of seriousness by Kirsty Mackay, is more ambivalent. At different times the initially tomoboyish teen clearly has a crush on Peter, explaining the jealousy of his flaming (literally) fairy friend Tinkerbell but also a feminist streak that would not have gone down well in Edinburgh over a century ago.

She gets support from a dual Tiger Lily and the women prove as brave as the boys when it comes to a fight. However, the real battle is inevitably that between Peter and a heavily tattooed Captain Hook, played as a representative of all that is bad about adulthood by a hissing, sinister Cal MacAninch, who doubles as the Darling pater.

The story, which in essence is that of Barrie, is at times both scary and uplifting in this version. The very young might just end up with nightmares but those just a little older will be thrilled by the story and love the bloody end of Captain hook as youth triumphs before the inevitable coming of age, which movingly leaves Peter a lone representative of perpetual youth.

As we have come to expect from this still young company, the production standards are second to none. A young cast do the business and are complemented by Anderson's atmospheric music and characteristic Scottish folk songs, generally led or delivered by Alasdair Macrae who also plays both Smee and the fiddle and Annie Grace (Mrs Darling and a strange double-barrelled flute).

Add in some puppetry, a touch of magic and some true swashbuckling and you have a production that will entrance boys and girls who have never grown up, whatever their age from 8 to 80.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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