Another awesome Wendy & Peter Pan review
Jemima Mitchell is an 18 year old English Language and History student at the University of Birmingham. With a strong love for theatre and the RSC she is taking advantage of the close links between Birmingham and the RSC to see as many shows as possible. Currently a Student Ambassador for the RSC she is looking forward to being able to try and encourage more young people to attend the theatre.
I am an avid reader and have always enjoyed reading whatever I could get my hands on. J M Barrie’s Peter Pan and Wendy is one of the earliest books I can remember. My copy of it still sits in pride of place on the family bookshelf, despite the fact that I, unlike Peter, have grown up and (supposedly) flown the nest. With daring sword fights, a mermaid lagoon, flying and fairies there was nothing not to love. At least as a child. Having now grown up and developed into a strong feminist, it’s fair to say that Wendy’s restriction to the role of ‘mother’ is one I strongly resent. Therefore, when I heard of the RSC’s Christmas production of Wendy & Peter Pan it’s fair to say I leapt at the chance to see it and had booked to see it twice before I even knew what was happening.
Upon walking into the theatre the first thing you notice (or at least, the first thing I noticed) was the fantastic set and, interestingly, the number of beds. The RSC is famous for its jaw dropping sets and so that was to be expected. However, everyone knows the story of Peter Pan and there are three Darling children. Yet, there on the stage was undoubtedly four beds. My friends and I theorised that perhaps the dog had been given a bed, as Nana was treated very much like a human in the Disney version. Alas, we were wrong and Nana did not even make it into the show and instead there were actually four Darling children.
Yet, despite Nana’s absence, the wonderful creative genius of Ella Hickson in adding an extra Darling to the story added all the depth that the original was now missing for me as an adult. At the beginning of the play, Peter and his band of shadows come to take Tom (the extra Darling) away to Neverland. As the shadows enter the nursery, W B Yeats’ The Stolen Child begins to echo throughout the theatre. Having studied this poem in great detail for A Level Literature, the tone of the play immediately became clear as Yeats creates a very sinister view of the fairy world which steals children away to its magical, fantasy land.
This then, is the catalyst for Wendy’s own adventure and she sets off to rescue Tom and bring him home. Mariah Gale puts in an excellent performance as Wendy, the girl struggling between child and adult. It is in Neverland that Gale truly makes the role her own. We enter Neverland on Wendy’s coattails and watch as she defies everything the world has tried to predetermine for her and knocks all the obstacles out of her way. We are introduced to a wide plethora of diverse characters, who all serve in their own way to defy stereotypes. There is great diversity within even the ranks of the pirates (in the form of Martin) and the lost boys and the wonderful reimagining of Tiger Lily (played by Mimi Ndiweni who stole the stage whenever she was on) provides a strong female heroine all the audience can get behind, not to mention Tink, whose character development throughout the show is spectacular to see.
These three dimensional characters, backed up by the (as always) spectacular set, provided me with everything J M Barrie’s version is missing, giving the boys and the girls equal chance to play and save the day. If Barrie’s story lives on for its sheer magical delight, Hickson’s reimagining will live on for bringing the show into the 21st century with all the magic of the original as well as an extra special spark that is all its own. Definitely a show not to be missed.
Make sure you get your BP £5 tickets this Christmas period for an unforgettable night of theatre!