Peter Pan, Lyric Theatre, December 1st, 2019, Review
By Conor O’Neill
A bell tolls and we’re brought into the lives of the Darling family: Michael, John and the wistful Wendy (Rea Campbell-Hill, Christopher Finn and Rhiannon Chesterman, respectfully), three middle class children whose only worry is that of the crooked Nanny Cookson (Allison Harding). Yet their suburban half-bliss of a life is far from the London of today.
Wendy tells the brothers of fantastic flights that occur every time she lays her head down to sleep. Fairies, The Lost Boys and of course their bold and brash leader, Peter Pan (Michael Mahoney), or are Wendy’s tales based on reality? Since its stage debut in 1904, the long, much adapted and its place in pop culture is a testament to writer JM Barrie’s skill as a playwright and his ability to fill kids of all ages with delight and adventure.
Tonight’s performance, an adaptation of Paul Boyd’s book, music and lyrics is a joy to watch. Aimed at children the parents and guardians are catered for too.
Belfast’s Lyric Theatre sees director Paul Boyd, along with an imaginative, innovative and truly professional creative team and cast take a close to capacity main stage on a thrilling adventure and removal from reality for its hour and 40 minutes running time.
Worry not, your children will not be bored for a second; the 55 minutes before the interval is pacey yet untroubled by unnecessary set changes.
That’s not saying this is a penny-watching production, far from it. With eight main actors filling the major roles, there’s also an ensemble of 15 singing, dancing and flying through every inch of the performance space. Chorographer Deborah Maguire’s tutelage and the hard work during rehearsals has well and truly paid off. The set changes, when called upon are simple yet effective. Costumes designed by Gillian Lennox and Erin Charteris appear to be drawn from the steampunk subculture and nod toward the original’s Georgian roots yet giving this production a modern twist.
Let’s never forget this is a musical, yet not so tied to the genre’s ‘everything must be sung’ dogma. Straight forward acting, not all of which is purely comedic, interspersed with ballads, big numbers and it would be a disservice not to mention the brilliance of every scene involving the mermaids. Alan Richardson’s Bah-Ree, Queen of the Mermaids had the house in tears of laughter every time she and fellow mermaids Emma (Rea Campbell-Hill) and Jay (Christopher Finn) grace and sometimes through the shrillness of their singing brilliantly disgrace the stage.
And of course, no tale would have lasted and adored for more than century if it didn’t contain a dastardly force of evil or two. Captain Jess Hook, superbly played by Allison Harding, who, as lovers of Peter Pan’s many adaptations will know even Hook has an arch nemesis the hand munching crocodile. Christina Nelson’s Miss Smee is another character the children are sure to hate. Yet this production is far from a traditional panto; there are no ‘he’s behind you’ moments and only one or two boos.
Flights of fancy, the innocence of childhood, swash-buckling sword fights, the anarchic Lost Boys, the eternal conflict between good and evil, plus a few more tricks that I’ll leave you to ponder when you see the production left every one of us delighted by the end.
Peter Pan runs up to and including January 4th, 2020.
As this is aimed at children The Lyric have reduced rates for schools and groups. There are day time performances every week day at 10.15 am and family shows running through out December
To find out more visit http://www.lyrictheatre.co.uk or phone the box office on 02890 381081