JM Barrie’s children’s classic is so familiar that it’s tempting to simply sit back and let it wash over you while ticking off the key elements in a mental check-list: The large nursery with the open window in Kensington Gardens? Check. Flying on wires to the Neverland? Check. Dastardly Captain Hook, the Lost Boys and the ticking crocodile? Check, check, check!
So it’s to the credit of director Jemima Levick that her production of Peter Pan has a bit of fun with our expectations. Levick has stripped out some of the more saccharine elements, while brief portions of the stage directions are now read aloud as a way of highlighting where Levick’s version deviates from the original. And in an inspired move, instead of the usual pin-prick of light darting around the stage, Tinkerbell is now portrayed as a disgruntled, heavy-footed creature spouting gibberish and clad in ballerina’s tutu and flying helmet.
Barrie’s tale is so dense in incident that it’s virtually impossible to stage it successfully without cluttering the stage with lumbering bits of technology. Francis O’Connor’s set, while striking, compounds this problem, involving unwieldy set changes involving the dismantling of a huge bed that inhibits the pace of the action. Meanwhile, some of the set pieces, such as the battle between the Lost Boys and the pirates, descend into an incoherent rabble with large groups of actors crowding the stage.
But the show features enough energy and colour to keep kids of all ages entertained, with impressive, spirited turns from members of the Lyceum’s Youth Theatre as the Lost Boys and Scott Fletcher creating an appropriate mix of gung-ho bravado, puckishness and vulnerability as the boy who never grows up.
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, until Sun 3 Jan