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WENDY AND PETER PAN at the RSC

December 27, 2013

The RSC Christmas show WENDY and PETER PAN restored my faith in the RSC after last year’s disastrous effort. Ella Hickson has adapted the novel by JM Barrie and has infused her own blend of feminism into the story. Wendy, Mrs Darling, TinkerBell and Tiger Lilly are all forceful female characters that drive the plot in this version of the familiar tale. It is a good intelligent script and Hickson has added another dimension to the story grounding Neverland and Peter Pan into a psychological explanation of Wendy’s grief.

The real success of this production is Colin Richmond’s excellent design fully utilizing the RSC main theatre stage. The sets are show-stoppers by themselves. Matt Costain has created enough arial wizardry to give the play enough of that magical flying feel, although not up to the incredible standards of very famous American Production starring Cathy Rigby that I saw in the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco in 1999 . I really liked Costain’s use of a team of shadows to cleverly lift Peter and the other characters for flying as well as using the wires. The pirates and the crocodile in particular are excellent characterisations.

Ultimately though the weakness of this play is in the writing of the male characters. Sam Swann is an adorable Peter and Guy Henry is the least cartoonish Hook I have ever seen on stage with a real menacing presence. However the drama between Peter and Hook is just not there. They don’t have the scenes or the lines. This left me feeling slightly empty as though there was something very important missing at the centre of this play. The magic.

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