Theatre review: Peter Pan at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

A scene from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie @ Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. Picture: Tristram Kenton

A scene from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie @ Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. Picture: Tristram Kenton - Credit: �Tristram Kenton

Wartime Peter sheds fresh light on a familiar tale but loses some of its magic, says Bridget Galton.

Hiran Abeysekera’s lithe, mischievous Peter is just one of the delights of an inventive production that combines JM Barrie’s timeless fantasy story with a more thoughtful undertow.

But Timothy Sheader’s at times over dominant concept – equating the lost boys to the ‘lost’ generation of young men in World War I - sacrifices some of the child-friendly magic of the tale (Nana the dog-nurse, Tigerlily the Indian Princess and the Darling’s family drama) in favour of powerful testimony to the pain of war.

Bookended with scenes in an army field hospital where Wendy is a military nurse, he deploys the khaki clad company to operate puppets, fashion a croc from two lamps and a stepladder and build the mermaid’s rock from beds.

Still Kae Alexander’s feisty Wendy is a treat, the pirates, led by a Baron von Munchausen-style Military Hook - all secretly just yearning for a mother - put up a terrific final fight that conbines swords, martial arts and a lot of haring about.

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And Nick Powell’s haunting vocal score creates shivers of loss between the adventures, echoed by the sense that it is Peter’s loss that he will never embrace adulthood.

Aided by a brilliant bungee that sends Abeysekera spinning gloriously overhead there are moments when it takes literal and metaphorical flight.

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But although my 10-year-old didn’t fully get the war framing device, and the seven-year-old wished the script had more humour and less of Hook’s traumatised soliloquizing, adults will appreciate a fresh angle on such a familiar story.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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