Paul Johnson | 24 Oct 2012 15:50pm
For her directorial debut Sarah McPartlan made a brave choice in the selection of Peter Pan as Bromley Players’ autumn production; this play embraces a number of demanding aspects from a directorial point of view with technical requirements to the fore-flying children! – set pieces involving sword fights, animal simulation, and various changes of setting and mood together with a clutch of ensemble musical numbers and dancing. Above all an atmosphere of magic, illusion and fantasy needs to be firmly established to secure conviction of the tale and characters unfolding before the audience. The play opened well with a charming ensemble piece allowing all performers to slowly enter the stage within the empathetic and soft melody sung by all ‘Something In The Air Tonight’ to set the restful air of London on a starry night. The narrative was underscored throughout by the narrator Pat Adams – Pat has a long list of achievements and past performances of note in her portfolio and her experience and expertise shone through in the clarity of delivery of the spoken word and the correctness of tone chosen, and when we were treated to her fine singing voice early on-we could perhaps have had more from Pat musically! The early scenes also introduced us to the Darling household – Katherine Vennard gave a very well judged performance in the vital role of Wendy and her caring persona shone through; her brothers John and Michael played by Harry Butters and (on the night I attended) Joshua Williams acquitted themselves well in relatively straightforward roles – Lisa the household maid was competently played by Frances Sheehan whose experience was evident in stage presence, both as Lisa and doubling up as a pirate, Skylights. Another performer whose vast experience interpreted into well played roles was Richard Rook playing the distracted and slightly eccentric head of the household in a quasi Victorian fashion, and later being easily the most credible of the pirate gang as Gentleman Starkey. More versatility was shown by Emma Studd as the family dog complete with shaggy costume on all fours-she also appeared as a Lost Boy and a Neverland inhabitant. I felt that a small trick or two was missed in not exploring the full comic potential afforded by the presence of the dog – perhaps some more interaction with the family members or reaction to the ongoing dialogue when his future was being discussed?! I have left till last on the Darling family reference to Mrs Darling sweetly and warmly played by Sarah Delany who exuded concern and love for her family in a very accessible fashion and set the musical standard – not always maintained thereafter by others! – with her loving lullaby to the children Just Beyond The Stars. Enter Peter Pan – splendidly clad as were the cast in general, the main characters benefitting from the authenticity of the costumes (Captain Hook Tiger Lily etc) – Peter was played by Bobby Youle whose performance was short of convincing me that he would have appeared as an enchanting other wordly figure to the children and able to persuade them to take the dramatic step of leaving home for the unknown Neverland. Beyond a hands-on-hip pose and somewhat fixed expression there seemed not enough engagement on his part with the children or the impression of never having grown up. The shadow effect in Peter’s opening scene was really well done requiring finely judged movement but thereafter the trip to Neverland felt a little underwhelming. For this play to work there has to be the aura of magic fantasy, fairy tale worlds and a buying in to the whole concept on the part of the audience, and I felt to some extent this was missing whilst there were many fine things to admire in the production values. The ensemble pieces involving large numbers of the cast exuded the necessary exuberance both in the vocalisation and movement – a highlight here was the opening number in Act 2, the jaunty Rose Tinted Eye Patch, a highlight for me with the easy movement of the pirates underpinning the brisk melody. The play picked up some pace-the scene changes made for a hiatus or two in the flow of the action-as the story progressed and Captain Hook was introduced and his nemesis the crocodile-nice special effects and a funny moment but the crocodile then disappeared as if forgotten although referred to in the text thereafter.
Some good dancing from Tiger Lily (Alissa Mears) along with her braves Nicola Russell and Emma Studd – note to Nicola; for whatever reason you wore black cycling shorts under the brown squaw dress, it detracted from the credibility! Another neat special effect provided by the arrival by boat of Captain Hook following the sinuous dancing/singing of Sarah Howe and Lydia Penn – a good looking scene.
The masterstroke of the play came towards the very end when the narrator was revealed to be Wendy in maturity/middle age and outlines the sad truth to Peter that people grow up and get on and that is what Peter should do. This scene had nice pathos and depth but again could have benefitted from more believability on Peter’s part. Plaudits are due to the technical achievement of hoisting the children and on a number of occasions Peter Pan on attached ropes/pulleys away from the stage and up into the higher reaches of the theatre and back (or should I say Neverland. . . ); costumes as I mentioned were excellent especially for the main characters. Choreography was stylish and good looking thanks to Lydia Penn and Jackie Langridge and musical direction was safely and handsomely delivered by Richard Sands and a 5 piece band.
So well done to Bromley Players for an entertaining evening if lacking that extra
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- : 17/10/2012