Review: Peter Pan, Barn Theatre

A magical team surround Waylon Jacobs in this wondrous ‘one-man’ Peter Pan at the Barn Theatre

“Aren’t you going to do the voices?”

Something about Peter Pan always ends up making me cry. I know this but still, I wasn’t prepared for the way in which Alan Pollock’s adaptation, conceived and directed by Kirk Jameson for the Barn Theatre, completely poleaxed me. It’s a subtle reference that comes out of left field late on during this production, but it is achingly, gorgeously, done, a real reminder of the power of theatre to play with your emotions even during the most familiar of work.

This version of JM Barrie’s classic is billed as a one-man-show, as Waylon Jacob’s father checks into his hotel room and Zooms with his daughter to tell her a bedtime story. And though it takes him a moment to get into it, soon he’s using any and all of the things around him to magic up a storytelling masterclass. Jacob is superb as he embodies all of the characters we know so well, and is aided by a creative team that conjure up an atmosphere that is truly enchanting. Continue reading “Review: Peter Pan, Barn Theatre”

Review: Dear Brutus, Southwark Playhouse

“I am not the man I thought myself”

There’s a knack to finding the kind of long-neglected plays that respond well to a revival, as opposed to the ones that are deservedly collecting dust, and Ashley Cook’s Troupe seem to have nailed it. Making a name for themselves with the likes of Rodney Ackland’s After October and James Shirley’s The Cardinal, Troupe has now turned to JM Barrie – best known of course for sharing the same birthday as me, oh, and Peter Pan – to shine a light on the little-performed 1917 play Dear Brutus.

It is undoubtedly a curious thing. It is set in a country house where the Puckish figure of its owner – Robin Hooper’s Lob – has invited a group of strangers for the weekend, with the intention of luring them into the enchanted wood that appears every midsummer to explore the lives that they might have led. A piece of magic-infused escapism that shifts tonally between whimsical frivolity and real psychological acuity, tear-jerking drama and comic romps and as such, can feel hard to pin down.  Continue reading “Review: Dear Brutus, Southwark Playhouse”

DVD Review: Peter Pan (2003)

“There are many different kinds of bravery”

It is a truth that every generation gets their own cinematic version of JM Barrie’s classic Peter Pan whether they want it or not (and this year’s Pan bombing heavily for Joe Wright shows it’s not always a good idea) and in 2003, it was PJ Hogan who took on the boy who never grows up, actually casting a boy in the lead role for once. And I have to say it is a rather sweet version of the story, a charming adaptation that captures much of the child-like glee associated with the story.

There’s nothing particularly innovative about this interpretation, it just does traditional very well whilst still managing subtle differences. Jeremy Sumpter’s sprightly Peter and Rachel Hurd-Wood ‘s impassioned Wendy are just perfect, both on the cusp of young adulthood and giving a real sense of the confusion of first sexual attractions and the world of possibility it opens. And Jason Isaac, doubling as Mr Darling and the dastardly Hook, is rather unexpectedly excellent, full of real menace for once as the pirate king. Continue reading “DVD Review: Peter Pan (2003)”

Review: What The Women Did, Southwark Playhouse

“Any of our group would walk out with a German, a Hindu or a Belgian.
‘Oh no, not a Belgian'” 

The centenary of the First World War will doubtless be marked in many a way in the nation’s theatre so the Southwark Playhouse have wisely got in early with this triple bill of lesser known plays which focuses on those left behind. What The Women Did features three works which delve into the experiences of not just the mothers, wives and girlfriends, but all the women who got on with the job of making society continue in such horrific circumstances, showing the difficulties faced in day-to-day living.

Gwen John’s Luck of War explores the unfortunate awkwardness, that must have been more common than is ever acknowledged, experienced by Ann Hemingway as her presumed dead husband turns up on the doorstep on crutches. It’s awkward because assuming herself a widow, she has remarried and thus is now a bigamist. Victoria Gee’s brummie bolshiness is of course thrown by the situation, but the short play wraps up a little too tweely to really have an impact.  Continue reading “Review: What The Women Did, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Mary Rose, Riverside Studios

“I like your spirit…”

Ghost stories are notoriously to get right on stage: the scarcity of genuinely chilling writing is often over-compensated for by productions stuffed with cheap scare tactics and thus it is a genre that I have tended to avoid. But the prospect of a classic ghost story written in 1920 by JM Barrie (with whom I share a birthday) tempted me sufficiently to book for Mary Rose at the Riverside Studios.

And on the surface, it is a conventional ghost story. We open in a creepy and creaky drawing room where a soldier returning to his childhood home from the First World War battlefields find it abandoned and laden with stories of ghosts that haunt its corridors and rooms. Through a series of flashbacks, we discover the tale of the Morland family whose daughter, the titular Mary Rose, disappears on a holiday to a remote Hebridean island only to reemerge some three weeks later as if nothing had happened. Her childlike demeanour persists into married young motherhood, but the lure of the island remains strong and on a return trip, she disappears once more, this time not returning for more than 20 years. Continue reading “Review: Mary Rose, Riverside Studios”

Review: Peter Pan, Barbican

“Second star to the right and straight on till morning”

There’s something about revisiting childhood favourites as an adult, a huge pleasure in discovering the deeper levels and meanings that escaped one’s more youthful self: I remember vividly discovering just how dark and vicious Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka gets with the truly revolting children in his factory after years of revelling in all the sweets, the excitement of the golden tickets and the Oompah Loompahs. Similarly here, my memories of Peter Pan were limited to the Disney film and the remake Hook, so in a nutshell, lots of fun as a Lost Boy and Julia Roberts being brought back to life. What I was not prepared for was the discovery of a huge well of aching sadness at the heart of this play.

This partly due to the new version created by David Greig for the National Theatre of Scotland, of J.M. Barrie’s classic, which relocates the action to Victorian Edinburgh and in particular the time of the construction of the Forth Rail Bridge, the instant parallels being drawn between the Lost Boys or Neverland and the gangs of young boys used to pass the molten hot rivets to the ironworkers on the bridge. There’s little fun to be had here, but there’s also less fun to be had in Neverland which is reconceived as a darker, more anarchic and dangerous place, populated by boys in need of motherly love, a hunger which drives this whole play and it is one which affected me greatly, as my companion for the evening will attest, tears rolled down my cheeks solidly for the last 30 minutes! Continue reading “Review: Peter Pan, Barbican”