Tess Henderson is a 22 year old English Literature and Drama graduate from UWE. She is passionate about theatre and writes a theatre blog dedicated to the subject. She is currently working as a Content Creation Marketer in Bristol.
If I could sum up the RSC production of Peter and Wendy in one word, it would be: Ingenious.
Playwright, Ella Hickson uproots the classic JM Barrie tale and forms it into something deeper and more relevant, yet still remains true to the context of the time.
One defining feature in Hickson’s version is that we begin with four Darling children instead of three. Tom is the fourth child who passes away at the beginning of the play, thus shattering the Darling household as they know it. Therefore, when Peter Pan arrives and mentions the ‘Lost Boys’ in Neverland, Wendy immediately jumps to the conclusion that Tom must be one of them; providing the story with a much stronger emotional pull than the promise of pirates and mermaids (although this is still what sways John and Michael!).
Another very strong feature to Hickson’s version is that arguably, this isn’t Peter’s story at all, it’s Wendy’s. In JM Barrie’s novel, Wendy is predominantly shoved into the ‘motherly’ role and thus into the restraints of patriarchy, as seen when she is put safely into her ‘Wendy house’ when she arrives in Neverland. However, Hickson turns her into a powerful force to be reckoned with as she scoffs at the childishness of Peter and the other boys and hatches a plan of her own to find Tom. This is mirrored by Mrs Darling’s story as she breaks out of the family home to fight for her independence amongst the Suffragette movement.
Mariah Gale plays Wendy with ease, as she not only reveals her childlike innocence, but her more opinionated, strong and practical side. Gale was one of my favourite performers as I felt that she brought a different side to Wendy; she made her a real, flawed human being rather than the prim and proper young girl Wendy is so often portrayed as.
I appreciated the way women were brought to the forefront of this narrative. I really liked the way Hickson joined the female characters together to save the Lost Boys on The Jolly Roger. With Tiger Lily’s (Mimi Ndiweni) strength and resilience, Tinkerbell’s (Charlotte Mills) sassiness and wit, and Wendy’s passion and confidence, we have the perfect team and truly see the different aspects of their personalities.
The set was incredible – thanks to award-winning designer Colin Richmond. A lot of thought and effort had been put into both the design and construction; particularly the Lost Boy’s den.
I thoroughly enjoyed this imaginative revision of Wendy and Peter Pan. It challenged the original story and successfully captured the feminist, comical and magical moments of the tale. I felt like I had been transported to the Neverland I had always wanted to experience!
Wendy & Peter Pan is now playing in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre until the 31 January.BP £5 tickets are available with promo code 1625.