It’s a rip-roaring musical adventure, full of belly laughs and jolly good pirates, stirring tunes and dramatic aerial sequences.It will have you laughing one minute, gasping in wonderment the next, maybe even shedding a tear or two. Visually pleasing with eye-catching costumes: Peter Pan will fly from the stage and straight into your heart this Christmas.
Peter is beautiful to watch in Hull Truck’s new adaptation of Peter Pan directed by Mark Babych, it is easy to see how Wendy could fall under his spell and fly away filled with the promise of Neverland.
Adapted by Deborah McAndrew and set in post-war Hull this Peter Pan is chock-full of perilous adventure and heartwarming spirit. The music comes from John Biddle with touching numbers sung by Vanessa Schofield’s Wendy, lively ensemble numbers and a rollicking sing-along on board the Jolly Roger. The pirates are good fun with Mr Starkey, Aron Dochard and Smee, Jacob Butler, as bumbling and inept as they should be. Hook played by Ryan O’Donnell dials up the melodrama and does his best to look fearsome; but it is Tinkerbell that troublesome fairy, who steals the show.
Much of the humour is generated by Joanna Holden’s Tinkerbell, and her brilliantly disruptive playing of Pan’s playmate taken straight from the working class glamour of the music hall. With a telling line, a conspiratorial nod, the packed audience are in fits; Tink may be small in stature, but her sheer presence spills from the stage.
Peter’s rhythmic vocal delivery and accent clearly puts him as being of African descent, a move which adds depth to his otherworldly charm and charisma. Baker Mukasa gives the ‘boy who would never grow up’ a playful, outspoken nature with boundless energy and an irresistible smile.
I learn a few days later that both Baker Mukasa and Vanessa Schofield learned the art of silks in preparation specifically for this version of Pan’s much anticipated aerial sequences. To see them scale the fabric in balletic fashion, spinning whilst singing, high above the audience, you’d think they’d been doing silks for years.
Integral to pantomime are the costumes, there’s a touch of urban cool in Sian Thomas’s reimagining of Pan’s outfit, where-as the Lost Boys have an intentional touch of make-do and mend; clear reminder that war-affected Britons were very familiar with the pains of austerity. The pirates are in smart navy jackets, presumably plundered on a daring raid: the Jolly Roger was originally a British ship after all. And the crocodile is… behind you!
In this adaptation of the classic JM Barrie coming of age tale – originally written in 1904 – there is an interesting under current of politics, with overt references to social housing and community building that could be lifted from a party manifesto today. Wendy’s officious father is apparently working on the post-war city-plan to rebuild Hull after the Blitz, and there-in lies the tension. History tells us that far from rebuilding the city and making it better the new plans did the opposite, dividing communities, with displaced families left on sinkhole estates, without proper infrastructure and services for decades to come. A far cry from the perfect home that Wendy dreams of and the Lost Boys build for her in Neverland.
Politicking aside there are enough pantomime hallmarks to make Peter Pan at Hull Truck familiar and fun for all the family. And not so many as to take away from what is a stylish show with high production values, and more than a drop of good old theatre magic.