Peter Pan (2019)
by J M Barrie
This was a production of Barrie's original play from 1904, with a few minor rewrites to simplify some of the technical demands, as well as addressing some of the issues surrounding Tiger Lily, who was re-imagined as a feral wolf-girl.
In addition, the main play was 'book-ended' with Barrie's short sequel, "When Wendy Grew Up", from 1908. This underwent a more extreme edit to remove the description of the original story, since this was not required, as well as establishing that both John and Michael had died in the First World War - a tragedy that Wendy was still not reconciled to. For this, the actor playing Mrs Darling was recast as grown-up Wendy, and the actress playing Wendy was recast as Wendy's daughter, Jane.
The production used a pulley and a fireman's pole to achieve the flying effects, and a large cloth screen for the actors to use for shadow-play, including additional flying effects, wolves, and the crocodile. The second half opened with an underwater scene using UV lighting, featuring jellyfish, angler fish, a six foot tall spider crab, and mermaids.
A real dog, Socks, was used in the final scene.
The production was SLT's 2019 Gala Night show.
- Mrs Darling / Adult Wendy - Audrey Lindsay
- Wendy / Jane - Roisin Deady
- John - David Clements
- Michael - Alice Kiff
- Mr Darling -
- Tiger Lily / Nana - Kelly-Kim Cranstoun
- Liza - Orla Loughran Hayes
- Peter Pan - Laarni Cornista-Hollebon
- Tootles - Jake Neale
- Tootles - Rosie Rodgers
- Twins - Philip Cohen
- Slightly - Oliver Adkin
- Curly - Helen Downham
- Nibs - Panit Chantranuluck
- Starkey - Naomi Liddle
- Cookson - Iffaat Choudhury
- Mullins - Jackie Burch
- Jukes - Lorenzo Talotti
- Cecco - Deborah Dubosq
- Smee - Lois Savill
- Captain Hook - Christopher Vian-Smith
- UV Scene - Pharell Rowland-Osborne
- Tinker Bell Spot - Lily Ann Coleman
- Tinker Bell Sound - Deborah Dubosq
- Nana (final scene) - Socks
- Stage Manager - Kay George
- ASMs - Carole Ironside & Carole Coyne
- Assistant Director - Elena Markham
- Lighting Designer - Bryon Fear
- Lighting Operator - Tiffany Manning
- Stage and Lighting Crew - Sean Thomas
- Stage and Lighting Crew - Chaz Doyle
- Costume Design - Panit Chantranuluck
- Props - Anna Rubincam & Carole Ironside
- Fight Arranger -
Sardines Review - Chris Abbott
This was my first visit to South London Theatre in their recently restored home in the Old Fire Station in West Norwood. It’s an interesting adaptation of the space with a black box studio replacing their original proscenium theatre and the creation of various other spaces for rehearsals and hire, which must be a good source of necessary additional income to help run a large building.
On the hottest day of the year the prime spot sought by audience members was in front of the air cooler in the bar, but the auditorium was not as hot as outside, and an excellent production of Peter Pan soon took our minds off the heat of the day.
Director Tom Melly opts for a shortened version of the play although making use of some of the later additions suggesting that Pan’s visits would become a regular event for each generation whilst he, famously, would never grow up. These extra sections are effectively staged with some nice touches, but perhaps make the story too complex for the commendably short running time.
Framing the action at start and finish is Audrey Lindsay as a nicely under-stated but beautifully spoken portrayal of Mrs Darling and, after a deft costume switch, the adult Wendy. Her three children are portrayed by adults but without some of the over-playing that occasionally results from this type of casting decision. David Clements is a suitably pompous John and Roisin Deady convinces as a determined and forthright Wendy. As Michael, Alice Kiff gives a fine performance and without any of the unfortunate excesses of child-like acting that sometimes occur; but what a shame that her tight-fitting costume does her no favours in making her portrayal of a boy convincing.
Among the Lost Boys, Oliver Adkin is a confident Slightly and serves as an effective leader of his disparate gang. The suitably villainous and mostly female pirates are nicely differentiated and very much look the part in Panit Chantranuluck’s costumes. As is often the case, it is Smee who catches the attention, in a very funny and well-judged performance by Lois Savill, who knows how to time a comic line.
In the title role, Laarni Cornista-Hollebon is a very agile and athletic Peter Pan, well able to swing in on a rope or slide down a pole, and able to handle the pathos and sentiment of the character too. Opposite her is Christopher Vian-Smith as a sardonic and world-weary Captain Hook, only slightly villainous but well able to handle the humour of the role as well as his famous dying speech.
There are some very clever touches in this production and an effective (though uncredited) set. In a play which has a shadow at its heart, it was good to see excellent use of shadow puppets (although do try to keep the shadow of the operator’s head out of view). The uncredited puppeteers also create an effective pack of wolves and the crocodile. The flying scene with the children is delightfully achieved with humanettes, a very clever touch which needs just a little more time for the effect to be noticed (and perhaps black clothing that fits better to hide their normal costumes).
I thought the decision to have Nana dressed as a servant with a rubber dog’s head worked less well, despite the efforts of the actor inside, and the actor/puppet twins among the Lost Boys doesn’t totally convince – but it is always good to see a production willing to experiment and do things differently.
As the programme acknowledges, J.M. Barrie dreaded his play becoming a pantomime, but it is so well known in that genre now that the audience began booing Captain Hook and even shouted “He’s behind you!” at one point. The second half also begins with a panto-style UV scene which is nicely planned but played against a white screen rather than a black curtain, with operators not wearing hoods and with white collars and cuffs appearing from their blacks. This is a great shame as the sequence has been carefully planned and uses effective puppets, especially the coup de theatre of the giant polystyrene crab. In full blackout this sequence would look stunning.
Despite the occasional reservation, this is a confident, entertaining and well-rehearsed production with a level of originality seen all too seldom in productions of this play. I look forward to returning to SLT.