"an extraordinary celebration of the virtues of being a child"
-The Stage-

"a magical, masterly production"
-London Theatre-

"an awfully big adventure"

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"The most poignant version of the J.M Barrie classic that I’ve seen"

Critic Rating

23 May 2018, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
Alice Bzowska Alice Bzowska
I was a bit unconvinced for the first fifteen or so minutes of Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel’s production of Peter Pan, as the drab and depressing Great War hospital scene of nurses tending to wounded soldiers was a far cry from the realm of jolly pirates, mystical mermaids and Lost Boys I wanted to delve into. When a copy of the J.M. Barrie classic tumbles to the dusty, wooden floorboards, however, one of the nurses picks it up and begins reading it out loud, and it all starts to come together. Soon, we’re off to Neverland.

This production was first shown at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in 2015, and is back to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. The idea of interweaving the grim world of the war with a fantastical land where no one grows up came about as George Llewelyn Davies, one of the children who inspired Barrie to create Peter Pan, was killed in action in 1915. He and the generation of real boys and men who went into war is beautifully told with parallels between the two worlds, with no man’s land turning into Neverland, one of the caring nurses becoming motherly Wendy, and the soldiers shifting to become Michael and John Darling and the boisterous Lost Boys.

Peter Pan is played by Sam Angell with his strong Scottish accent – perhaps a nod to the author who was himself a Scot. He soars around the stage with ease on a pulley system that enables him to hover horizontally as he receives ‘thimbles’ from Wendy. The rest of the set which is designed by Jon Bausor, feels like a magical fairyland, with hospital beds turning into meadows and colourful houses, and a huge pirate ship forming with two Jacob’s ladders side by side, leaving the rest up to our own imagination. The puppetry by Rachael Canning is also very impressive, especially the ticking crocodile which is fashioned from floorboards and lanterns.

Tinkerbell is shaped from colourful lamps put together in a haphazard way, and is operated and played humorously by Elisa de Grey, with the fairy’s jealous remarks and mumbles causing many chortles from the audience. Cora Kirk stands out as Wendy with an endearing innocence that is almost tangible. The cast and characters of Peter Pan may be male heavy with excellent performances from Lewis Griffin (Tootles) amongst others, but these two strong female characters stood out. As Peter himself says, ‘one girl is more use than twenty boys’.

The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s production of Peter Pan is the most poignant version of the J.M Barrie classic that I’ve seen. The only element that didn’t seem to work was the mother character, played by Rebecca Thorn, who strolls slowly between scenes, singing sweetly, as she seems out of place and doesn’t have much of a purpose in the production. The rest, however, convey the parallels between the Lost Boys and the actual soldiers who never returned from war, as well as the women who looked after them, in a moving and magical way.

Reviewed by Alice Bzowska.

The Stage
Sam Angell is a perfect Peter, with a huge smile, completely full of charm and good cheer. He plays against Cora Kirk’s endearing, slightly sad Wendy who is more mature and more aware of what it means to face growing up.
Mark Shenton
I've not seen flying that's as obviously theatrical - you can explicitly see how it’s being done - yet thrillingly visceral as this (the aerial artistry is by Wired Aerial Theatre). As co-directed by Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel, it moves with a special fluidity and sense of adventure - but also a tender, aching vulnerability.
The cast seize their roles with relish and bring an infectious japery to proceedings, from the Lost Boys to Hook’s pirates.
The Times
To die, Peter Pan defiantly declares, will be an awfully big adventure — but it’s a tragic waste of young life in this rich, emotionally layered retelling of JM Barrie’s classic about the boy who never grew up.
Matt Trueman
Is Peter dead or imaginary? Who's fighting who? Fact and fiction get smudged uneasily together and if it feels superficial, a neat little spin, it's because the reality of war never properly intrudes.