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Wendy and Peter Pan

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Five stars

There is an emotional ache at the heart of Ella Hickson’s reimagining of J.M. Barrie’s much-loved children’s story, brought to vivid life by director Eleanor Rhode on Max Johns’ expansive set that opens out from children’s bedroom to lost boys’ hideout and pirate’s lair. It’s an ache of wonder and loss that treads the shadow-line between the two in a world where growing up isn’t always easy.

None of the play’s over-riding seriousness takes away from the transformative sense of joy that runs through a show that makes Isobel McArthur’s Wendy much more than Peter Pan’s sidekick once she and her brothers fly off to Never Land where she’s meant to play mum. As she learns from her sisters-in-arms Tink and Tiger Lily how to hang tough, Wendy also comes to terms with the death of her brother Tom, whose presence gives the show added depths.

This is seen through the transformation of the family home as a house of laughter to one of pain. It’s there too when Sally Reid’s fairy-winged force of nature Tink appears to have breathed her last. When Bonnie Baddoo’s fearless Tiger Lily is killed without comment, both incidents are as poignant as any Shakespearian youth who becomes the first of the gang to die.   

Ziggy Heath’s Peter is a terminal adolescent and unreconstructed thrill-seeker with no sense of everyday responsibilities who gets by on charisma alone. As he spars with Captain Hook, played by Gyuri Sarossy as an increasingly past-it punk, it’s as if he’s squaring up to his own delayed mortality.

Hickson not only empowers Wendy, but allows her younger brother Michael to take a leap into the dressing up box to explore his own sense of self. Underscored by Michael John McCarthy’s moving score and given a starry beauty by Mark Doubleday’s lighting, the result is an exquisite fantasia about healing, about growing up enough to keep the child within alive, and about learning to let go enough to be able to fly in every way.

The Herald, December 3rd 2018


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