Review / Pirates and dog steal the show in ‘Peter Pan’

Theatre / “Peter Pan” musical. Directed by Anita Davenport. At Belconnen Theatre until January 21. Bookings to canberraticketing.com.au or 6275 2700. Reviewed by HELEN MUSA

OPENING on an exquisitely pretty set designed by Steven Galinec, this agreeable musical by Piers Chater Robinson continues Icklepickle’s tradition of providing light summer entertainment.

Steven Galinec’s set – the Darling house

With catchy tunes recorded on a soundtrack and singing directed by Susan Davenport, it nonetheless presents the story of “The Boy Who Never Grew Up” as something approaching a straight play, (not a pantomime) although there are plenty of laughs.

Director Anita Davenport steers a cast of mixed experience – and it is one of the strong points of this company that it introduces new players – through a familiar tale of urban dullness followed by a wonderful escape to Neverland.

Given the outrageously imaginative nature of the plot, it was a little strange to see Icklepickle working so hard to de-Indianise JM Barrie’s admittedly Victorian view of American Indians, especially since the soundtrack involves tom-tom like music.

Greg Sollis as Hook

Happily no such cultural sensitivity applies to the Pirates, who gave the energetic young cast a chance to entertain both themselves and the audience with their over-the-top antics.

Here Patrick Galen-Mules as Smee and Alexander Gorring as Starkey act as perfect foils to Greg Sollis in the prize part of the show, the wicked but cowardly Captain Hook. A glitch in the sound on opening night meant that Sollis had to perform his song “Goodbye Peter Pan” unaccompanied, as he did to wild applause from the audience.

Jodi Hammond’s choreography adds a dance element to the production and visual delight in the “lit-up” skirts of the dancers.

Emily Pogson as Wendy, with her boys

Josh Kirk as Peter Pan, Emily Pogson as Wendy and Jack Morton-John and Joss Kent as her two brothers pretty well play it straight. This is probably wise, with so many eccentric co-characters to act with, but it does expose some weaknesses in Barry’s original, especially the idea of Wendy having romantic designs on Peter.

But whenever the Pirates, The Lost Boys and the non-red Indians come on stage and the energy level rises.

The story of Peter Pan is a timeless one but when rendering it into stage drama, there are inevitable problems with the dreariness of the Darling household before Peter whisks the kids away into Neverland. Davenport gets around this with a bit of inspired casting that sees Galinec steal the limelight in full dog costume to play Nanna, the children’s nurse.

This production of “Peter Pan” is hugely ambitious but in the end appealing. It ends with a piece of technical wizardry that the audience has been waiting for throughout the play – and we won’t tell you what that is.

 

 

 

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