Wendy and Peter Pan at Lyceum, Edinburgh
- Gareth K Vile
- 11 December 2018
Melodramtic structure holds multiple ideas
Ella Hickson's adaptation of JM Barrie's Peter Pan is full of ambition: variously a meditation on grief, a celebration of female friendship and ability, a painful reflection on aging and lost opportunity and a romping adventure through Neverneverland, the Lyceum's Christmas production ends up being a long way from the pantomime. At times earnest, and failing to land dramatic moments, it still serves up brilliant performances and moments of magic, using the melodramatic structure to leap between themes and spectacle.
Wendy is the protagonist of Hickson's script, and Isabelle is a lively presence throughout, carrying off Wendy's desires for maturity, playful enthusiasm for battle and mourning for her lost brother with equal aplomb. The strongest scenes – her alliance with Tinkerbell and Tiger Lily, the romantic final flight with Peter, the decision to lead the Lost Boys in battle – are all driven by her effervescent energy. The ensemble cast, despite frequently getting lost in the rough choreography of fights and the Lost Boy's immature play, provide powerful support, although Pan himself is a mercurial presence, never landing as romantic hero or rebellious child.
Unfortunately, the thematic possibilities clutter the production, with the emotional shifts frequently unsatisfying and the dialogues are often lacklustre: Tinkerbell is developed as a Glaswegian tough and given a smart, tough and comic edge by Sally Reid, but it is Hook who is given the most poignant reflections on age and failure. The chaos of the extended fight scenes breaks the seriousness of the themes, and the slow first half – the Darling's domestic circumstances are given several scenes to provide context – is rescued by the melodramatic twists of the second. Despite the scope of Hickson's intentions, the unevenness of characterisation and language undermines the momentum, and it is the magic of Wendy's flight, the strong social message and the energy of the performances that lift the production from Hickson's busy script.