Peter Pan, National Theatre | Review

Peter Pan is an imaginative production, brimming with life and enthusiasm... Sure to thrill every audience member who witnesses it!


Peter Pan
The Olivier Theatre, National Theatre
Reviewed on Friday 2nd December 2016 by Olivia Mitchell
★★★★
The story of 'The Boy Who Never Grows Up' is one which we all know. Since J.M Barrie's original story and production there have been countless re-imaginations of Peter and Wendy's adventures in Wonderland, each trying to add their own spin to the story. With a such a Classic it can be hard to make the distinction between a play and a panto but the National Theatre's production has done that perfectly and created a fresh and exciting version of Peter Pan which is sure to be enjoyed by children and adults alike!

Madeline Worrall captures Wendy Darling's character wonderfully, with moments of childishness as well as of maturity and practicality. Wendy, is this production is much more free spirited than I've seen previously; she doesn't just follow Peter's every whim but seems to weigh up every decision she makes. She's independent whilst still having childlike qualities; a lovely contrast to Peter himself, played by Paul Hilton.

Peter is not the charming, sweet boy we usually think of. He is much darker and more frantic; a mix between Drop Dead Fred and The Mask (maybe that's because of all the green though!) At first I was unsure of this portrayal but Hilton's Peter really grew on me and I understood why he had such a cocky and arrogant side and was able to sympathise with him much more in his moments of despair than if he had been sweet throughout.

Of course motherhood is a key theme in the story of Peter Pan but in this production it is really magnified, especially through the choice of having Captain Hook played by a woman (Anna Francolini who replaced an injured Sophie Thompson.) Francolini is dark and menacing as Hook. Her gold teeth glistening like knives, her gothic get-up and of course her hook, all create a truly threatening character. The character of Hook is deconstructed slowly throughout the play, with snippets of her humanity showing all through, making her somewhat melancholy. I got the feeling that Hook would have liked to be a mother but as she is stuck in Neverland and evil has been drilled into her, she knows she never could be. This was a revelation to me as I had never seen Hook as anything other than the evil antagonist.

The stand out scene of the whole show for me was when she was roused up and dressed by Smee in a revealing scene where she transformed from a frail, balding lady to the strong, menacing Hook she shows the world. Although Hook was suitably scary, I found myself drawn to her and wanting to know more and more about her.

Another stand-out character was Tiger Lily played by Lois Chimimba. Tiger Lily is a feisty girl who's been raised by wolves and knows her way around. The wolves themselves would have terrified a 10 year old me- they're very reminiscent of The Wheelers in Return To Oz coming onto the stage erratically with masks and crutches.

The only character I didn't feel attached to was Tinkerbell, played by Saikat Ahmed. He was too aggressive and not at all likeable. Although it was heartbreaking when he drank the poison, there was just something about him which made me feel uneasy. I loved the made up language used for Tink and the whole premise felt very solid but I personally was not a fan.

I loved the theatricality of the production. It was wonderful to see how all the 'magic' was being done. Seeing the counter-weights and 'fairy strings' on stage didn't distract from the magic at all but made the whole thing even more enjoyable to watch. The use of music is another highlight of the production. Whilst it is clearly not a musical, it is also not just a play. The songs added are not randomly thrown in for decoration but to add to the characters and emotions, the duet/vocal duel between Hook and Wendy was raw and rich and exciting to hear.

Overall this production is lively, colourful, exciting and rich. It takes the classic story and elevates it to a new level of wonder and fantasy without taking it anywhere near the pantomime realm. This is a creative and refreshing production which is magical for children and touching for adults. The whole production is a visceral spectacle which is not to be missed!

Peter Pan is playing at the National Theatre until the 4th February. Tickets can be booked at: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/peter-pan

A huge thank you to #LDNTheatreBloggers for having me at the show; make sure you check them out on twitter @TheatreBlogs and their website: http://theatrebloggers.co.uk/!