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Wendy and Peter Pan at Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon - Review

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Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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Refreshing and exciting update of Peter Pan tale
This magical reworking of Peter Pan by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is a glorious adventure giving a touch of girl power to the classic JM Barrie tale.

Added to the mix is a truly spectacular stage set and extra depths of bereavement and the Suffragette movement, which modernises the story into something more relevant to today's generation.

Wendy and Peter Pan by the Royal Shakespeare Company

We begin in the children's bedroom in Edwardian London in 1909. Snow falls outside the window and the Darling family is blissfully happy until the death of the youngest child, Tom, puts pressure on all their relationships.

This new twist by writer Ella Hickson means that Wendy's journey into Neverland with Peter Pan and Tink (a modern version of Tinkerbell) is prompted by her search for her "lost boy" Tom rather than just a flight of fancy.

It's a clever touch and based on historical reasons for why Barrie wrote Peter Pan in the first place - as a way to help five orphaned boys, who had come under his guardianship, cope with death through the eternal youth of the lost boys.

Swashbuckling scenes in Wendy and Peter Pan

As their adventures take flight in the play, Wendy (Fiona Button in an impressive RSC debut) transforms from a damsel in distress (during a game in the opening scene) to eventually a bold warrior who helps rescue Peter, who is now the one tied to a mast and needs saving.

Along the way it uses comedy to show Wendy questioning why she is expected to "play mother" and look after the silly boys, who can play to their hearts' content, never grow up and never face any responsibility. It coincides with scenes of Wendy's mother facing similar frustrations with her husband in London as the city is gripped by the Suffragette movement.

At one point, Wendy's exasperation overflows on to Tiger Lily and Tink, saying "every girl on this island has tried to kill me and I'm sick of it" as she urges them to come together in a show of girl power that would make the Spice Girls proud.

Tinkabell also gets a reworking for the better - this Tink is a lovable, in-your-face, sarcastic chunky ball of pink taffeta with large boots, who looks and talks uncannily like pop singer Adele. Actress Charlotte Mills gives a refreshing interpretation of the fairy.

But the most inventive change is the crocodile. Lithe actor Arthur Kyeyune - complete with top hat, pocket watch and spookily pale yellow eyes - contorts himself into shapes that make him seem just like the reptile.

Wendy and Peter Pan continues until March in Stratford upon Avon

The set is magnificent and enables the action to move swiftly from the children's bedroom to different parts of Neverland using aerial wires, trap doors and even an underground room. A huge section of the stage lifts up to reveal the lost boys' cosy underground home.

Meanwhile Captain Hook's impressive ship glides around stage and even has the sails double up as a projector screen.

Captain Hook in Wendy and Peter Pan by the RSC

Captain Hook himself (played by Guy Henry from BBC's Holby City) is menacing yet still a charming rogue, in the same vein as Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow. He kills his own pirate over the grammatical mistake of a split infinitive and is just the right scariness for children in the crowd.

The RSC won plaudits for its revitalisation of children's tale Matilda and this latest re-working of a fairytale has all the same exciting ingredients. It feels fresh, funny and has the emotional depth to also make it very sincere and deeply touching at times.

Then there are the sword fights, flying scenes, twinkling fairy lights and special effects that are a wonder for the younger members of the audience in particular.

And although this production is for children from the age of seven upwards, don't let that put you off as an adult as this is simply unmissable. Go see it!

Score: 10/10

Wendy and Peter Pan
Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Stratford upon Avon
Until March 2, 2014
Tickets cost from 17 from the RSC Box Office on 0844 800 1110 or at the RSC website.
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Why? Fantastic modern interpretation of classic tale
When: Until March 2, 2014
Phone: 0844 800 1110
Where: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon
Cost: from 17
Your Comment
This sounds really good. Are John and Michael still in it?
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12626) 2776 days ago
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