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By Ian Hughes Thursday 19 December 2013 Updated: 09/01 07:43
Wendy & Peter Pan
IF the yardstick for such shows is to leave a broad smile across the faces of young and not so young alike then Wendy & Peter Pan succeeds magnificently.
As the monster that is Matilda reaches 900 shows, it's difficult to believe the latest in the RSC's now traditional annual family shows will not have a life beyond its scheduled finish date in March. Director Jonathan Munby's production of Ella Hickson's adaptation of JM Barrie's classic is spectacular. Magic aside, this is not Disney; more Simpsons, engaging both children and adults at once, but at times on different levels.
Hickson reworks the original, creating Neverland in the imagination of Wendy, carried off magnificently by
RSC débutante Fiona Button. Her Wendy is a girl in the know who becomes increasingly frustrated and aghast at how silly boys are, and the fact all the girls seem to want to kill her.
Sam Swann as the harmonica-playing Peter Pan is a perfect foil for this Wendy as wide-eyed innocent who really doesn't want to grow up. Early on he's all excited at what he thinks was his first kiss, but with Wendy's help he's a little wiser come the end.
This is a cast without a weak link, from Darling parents to brothers, Lost Boys to Shadows, and a truly motley crew of comedy pirates led by Guy Henry as arch baddie Captain Hook.
Charlotte Mills, as the larger than life, and quite angry, fairy Tink, and Michelle Asante's street cool South African Tiger Lily, join forces with Wendy as girl power wins the day, as Hickson smashes the fairytale stereotype of weak in need of saving women, with nods to suffragettes, and the problems men have with ironing.
While a visual feast, it also has gags which are genuinely funny - from surveys about dwarfs to a stomach-churning misinterpretation of pooh sticks. There's even a spot of audience participation as Peter calls for help to wish a fairy back to life.
As a spectacle it has to be one of the richest yet seen at the RST, as the full arsenal is employed. A skull mastheaded Jolly Roger sails onto set, and the Lost Boys subterranean home rises from beneath the floorboards. The flying scenes are also hugely impressive.
At one point a young voice from the audience can't stop himself crying out 'behind you' as the pirates approach. He was in Neverland. This is a magical production in every sense.
Wendy & Peter Pan runs at the RST until March 2.
Visit www.rsc.org.uk or call the box office on 0844 800 1110 for tickets and further details.
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