REVIEW: Peter Pan, Tread the Boards at The Attic Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until 5th June
Review by Peter Buckroyd
IT’S been the fashion in recent years for theatre companies, particularly the big heavily subsidised ones, to play Peter Pan’s dark edges and emphasise subjects such as the context of war, the subjugation of women, child mortality, the separation of children from their parents, death in childbirth.
This production by Tread the Boards is very different. It is a pantomime-based fairy tale and in some clever casting it’s very clear that it’s the Darling children’s fantasy. The villainous Captain Hook whom we are encouraged to boo is played by John-Robert Partridge who also plays Mr Darling.
When we meet the lost boys two of them have charming puppets in just the same way as Michael always carries his teddy. Some of the lost boys are played by girls because Wendy is the girl in the family.
Several things are memorable about Peter Pan. There’s flying. There’s Peter’s shadow, there’s the crocodile, there are pirates, there’s the rescue of Tiger Lily, there are scenes at sea, there’s the magic of Tinkerbell. These are all done cleverly and charmingly. It helps if Peter Pan is cute. Chris Rutter is. He gives a spirited and technically skilled performance throughout as Peter and is well matched by an extremely well observed Michael (Patrick Large) who is cute and charm personified and who makes even his teddy seem like a character. George Almond’s face as John is constantly in motion and together with Wendy (Hannah Turpie) they make a delightful threesome.
There are lots of routines for the whole family to enjoy. I loved the bit where Peter finds his shadow and engages Wendy’s help to attach it. Patrick Large is as effective and amusing as controller of the cardboard boat as he is as Michael. The crocodile, worked by a very large Smee (Harjot Sahota), was delightful. Kiara Pillai is strong as Tiger Lily and also effective and amusing as Tootles and Nana. It’s impossible to do ‘real’ flying at The Attic so the choice made is clever and amusing.
The set is functional in a minimalist way and Eliot Wallis’s musical compilation creates atmosphere without being obtrusive.
I’ve sometimes found productions of Peter Pan rather portentous and depressing. Not so here. Under John-Robert Partridge’s skilful direction it’s enjoyable but unthreatening and unfrightening. As soon as the Darling children miss home they return and are welcomed back. No one dies. This is fun for all the family.