J M Barrie, adapted by Nik Ashton
The Castle Theatre, Wellingborough
This felt like the budget version of the usual huge money making pantos that the ‘big’ theatres put on now. But rather than feeling threadbare, on the whole Peter Pan at The Castle, Wellingborough is a charming effort.
There are many elements that creat a traditional feel to the performance. The story itself feels very authentic, staying close to the brilliant original. There is nothing worse that seeing an adaptation that rips something apart rather than adding something extra.
Sure, the music isn’t stand-out brilliant and the set design isn’t beautifully crafted, but this, in some ways, doesn’t seem to matter. With a committed cast and a great story, you can’t help but like this version of Peter Pan.
The cast is led by James Lacey, the flying Peter Pan. His youthful energy really captures the character. This is a role that needs to have another dimension to it—not just ‘I want to be a boy’. The rather confused and ‘lost’ side to Peter also needs to come across and this is achieved by Lacey’s performance.
He is ably supported by a strong if not entirely scary Hook. I didn’t find myself hating the Captain and wanting to ‘boo’ at every opportunity—though this might be down to Nicholas Maude’s charming portrayal of Mr Darling as well as the panto villain.
The amiable ‘Smee’, Matthew Collyer, fills time successfully, engaging the audience when needed. It works especially well when the scenes take place in and around the audience—the crocodile chasing Smee and Hook is one example.
The question of Tinkerbell and how to stage the ephemeral character is perhaps the biggest negative from this performance. A green laser light is used to physically create the effect, and although this works on a practical level it does feel slightly lazy. The relationship between Peter and the fairy also seems to lack development.
However, with every slight niggle there is a counterpart that works. The characters' flying always receives a gasp of wonder from the younger members of the audience. The male ensemble and supporting young company works well—and although not always appearing to be slick and polished turn out committed performances.
So if it is minor celebrities and 3D effects that you are craving for your Christmas treat this year, you may be disappointed. However if, like me, it is story and charm and a little bit of magic that you after, then with Peter Pan you can’t go wrong.
Peter Pan plays at The Castle, Wellingborough until Monday 26th December 2011
Reviewer: John Johnson