That was two hours of my life I won’t get back, I heard an audience member groan as we left the Donald Gordon Theatre at Wales Millennium Centre at the end of a lacklustre night at the opera.
I say opera, but with lots of kids in the audience and the staff wearing pirates’ hats it felt as if panto had come early and that continued as the show got underway. What a waste of Arts Council money!
It started nicely with a giant train set carrying all sorts of characters across the stage, in and out of a tunnel, although someone (a pirate I seem to member) had to pick his up when it was derailed. This idea came back at the end of the show when Peter, now in normal clothes, sort of disappeared when a train went by. Unlike me I don’t think he felt the urge to throw himself on the Circle Line, maybe he was just relieved he could get on with life after his long sojourn into Neverland.
Rebecca Bottone (Michael), Marie Arnet (Wendy), Nicholas Sharratt (John)
The music seems odd for a show aimed at children. It doesn’t have tunes as such and certainly none that you would remember or really choose to listen to in any other context. There is a quote light and amusing sort of pirates song (you know the sort of thing: a pirate’s life for me, ho ho) and the children will enjoy all the scrapping, running around and party costumes once we had left Edwardian London for Neverland.
The darkness of J M Barrie’s story is hinted at and at the very beginning one of Wendy’s gestures I assume was supposed to signify sexual awakening in contrast to Peter Pan’s asexuality and his stunted development as a nasty, selfish, hedonistic child. Marie Arnet sings the role convincingly but this is not the Lulu we saw with WNO some years ago.
Even when countertenor Iestyn Morris is asked in this reworking of the Keith Warner production to speak rather than sing for the panto style “let’s make a big noise to wake up Tink” it is because he just doesn’t want to be alone rather than any sudden discovery of pleasantness or altruism. Similarly, he only takes Wendy along for the ride because she can sew and might be useful. When he doesn’t need her or the boys, Nicholas Sharratt and Rebecca Bottone as John and Michael, he just tells them to go home. Tinkerbell, incidentally, is just a projection until the death scene when oddly she becomes a doll.
On the plus side the show is quite pleasant to watch for the flying, the set that has a railway carriage transformed into Captain Hook’s ship, the clock that becomes the croc, the Indians and the other Lost Boys characters all in Nicky Shaw’s costumes.
I most enjoyed the singing from Ashley Holland as the father and Captain Hook and Hilary Summers as the children’s mother and Tiger Lily. Iestyn Morris’s counter tenor singing has to show great flexibility with Richard Ayres writing for the voice but for a central character he doesn’t seem to have much to get his teeth into.
I won’t repeat the Clock O’Dial pun for the crocodile that comprised the grandfather clock from the children’s bedroom with a set of gnashers and tail (under which it pooped out Captain Hook’s watch).
Rather, I would just say this is a show that didn’t have me Hooked, it just didn’t Take Off, ideas seem to have been unintentionally I am sure Pirated from elsewhere, the musical ditties just weren’t Snappy enough and if I was a much crueller reviewer I would Pan this show. It was panto after all and thank goodness It’s Behind Me.
Wales Millennium Centre until May 31 and touring to Birmingham and London