Oddly dark, light on laughs and lacking razzmatazz and special effects, The Rose’s annual Christmas show, Peter Pan, is about as far from Disney’s classic animated version as it’s possible to travel. There are some very good performances, notably by the engaging Kaine Ruddach as Peter, Michelle Bishop cleverly doubling up as Mrs Darling and
Oddly dark, light on laughs and lacking razzmatazz and special effects, The Rose’s annual Christmas show, Peter Pan, is about as far from Disney’s classic animated version as it’s possible to travel.
There are some very good performances, notably by the engaging Kaine Ruddach as Peter, Michelle Bishop cleverly doubling up as Mrs Darling and Captain Hook, and Hilary Maclean as the granny narrator who, in the final twist, turns out… well, I can’t spoil that one.
Two full casts of Rose Theatre youth players alternate nightly until January 7, giving abundant scope for the area’s junior performers to demonstrate their exuberant talents.
Directed by Lucy Morrell, adapted by Evan Placey with music by Vikki Stone (whose frothy festive pantos at Hammersmith’s Lyric have a completely different tone to this show), this version of Peter Pan weaves themes of obedience, parental stress and the importance of embracing all family configurations into JM Barrie’s original yarn.
But while last year’s feelgood adaptation of A Christmas Carol, with a gender-reconfigured Scrooge and eye-catching effects, was uplifting and boisterously entertaining, this season’s Peter Pan is unsettling and, at times, maddeningly complicated.
The first half sags in the middle, although the pace picks up markedly after the interval, which launches with the best song of the show, So You Think You Wanna Be A Pirate, led by Hook. But musically nothing comes close to the jollity of Disney’s Never Smile At A Crocodile.
However, Nana the dog – a lifesize puppet version of a Newfoundland, made by Judith Hope and operated on the night by Audrey Johnston – is so endearing and convincing that the audience yearns to see more of her. Her starring moment is almost thrown away as cover for a scene change, when Mr Darling (Dominic Rye) has to clean up after her with a poo bag!
Nobody flies; a disappointing omission in a professional production of Peter Pan when past stagings in the Kingston theatre have seen characters hoisted aloft on wires. The closest we get is when Peter’s shadowy figure bobs in silhouette against the Darling children’s bedroom window.
The director has also made Tinker Bell (played on press night by Ellie Searle in combat fatigues with a lit-up ball on a stick) hostile and unfairylike.
Adaptor Placey sticks fairly closely to Barrie’s original Edwardian story, including the construction of a small dwelling – to this day known as a Wendy house – which the Lost Boys enter, and from which they magically vanish; a polished effect.
A show which looks, from the posters, like a fairytale family panto full of magic and stardust and which is billed as ‘an enchanting adventure’, unfortunately fails to deliver the wow factor.
Box office here.
Pics: Mark Douet