Wendy & Peter Pan

I had the honour to review the Watermill Theatre's Youth Ensemble Production of Wendy and Peter Pan. This production was adapted by Ella Hickson from the novel written by J.M. Barrie.

The theatre has an intimate vibe which adds to the notion that you could be a fly on the wall watching what is happening in the Darling household and with the sound effects and mist machine going off during the interval you were actually in Neverland. 

This adaption stuck closely to the novel and was beautifully played by the young cast members who range from 11 to 24 years old. There were over 50 cast members in total, split into two performance groups.   I saw 'blue performance' on their first evening show. On speaking to some of the parents in the audience, a lot of the green performance group were watching this show, which in itself was lovely to hear and showed how close this young performance group is.  It certainly shows in their work on stage.

To start the show, three of the young actors told the audience that this performance was a relaxed performance and explained that there were some loud noises, the house lights would be slightly lifted and that if needed there were screens in the foyer where people could watch, so no action would be missed. We were also told that this performance had BSL signing and we were introduced to those performers.

The set, to start with, showed a bedroom with four beds and some small boxes which were cleverly used to spell out HOOK and LOST to depict where we were, when in Neverland. The use of the sail to show the boat, and the fact the whole set was a climbing frame was a really good use of space on a small stage. The puppetry was well executed and was used throughout the flying scenes with actor and shadow both working together, and your attention was drawn to the puppet rather than the actor. The use of onstage lights for Tinkerbell and the fairies, as well as fireflies, was really nice, especially at the beginning when Peter was moving her light from one place to another for Tink to come out in a rage from a chest. The scene change going from the Darlings house to Neverland was executed well but I did feel it dragged ever so slightly, that is my only criticism throughout this show. The rest of the changes were slick and interlocked with the action happening on the stage.

Special mention needs to go to the BSL signing that happened throughout the performance, firstly from the amazingly talented BSL integrated performer Lixi Chivas who was on stage the entire time and interweaved between characters signing as they were going along.  It was so nice to see. The silent BSL Hook played by Ellie Adams not only looked like Hook, played by Coco Vollenweider, but captured her movements and timing as well. The two worked really well together and at times they seemed like one. 

Everyone on that stage worked well and given that there were 25 people on a small stage the fight scenes where choreographed and executed expertly by the young cast. Music was played on stage by Peter Pan himself (played by Joshua Allen) and the opening song by the cast was haunting and moving. I had tears in my eyes for Mrs Darling (played by Ella Wilson) and Mr Darling (played by Tom Norris) when they lost their son Tom (played by Ethan Mearkle-Mist), it was such a moving moment on the stage. I felt all the emotions that Wendy (played by Livi Hodgson) was going through and it was a joy to watch as she found her happy thoughts and began to fly. There were some really excellent comic moments from Wendy, Tink (played by Edith Rayner), Smee (played by Eloisa Beasant) and Martin (played by Isobel Hawkins) who had the audience in stitches.

Lastly hats off to the directors and stage crew for managing so many kids in a tight space.

It was a very enjoyable night and one I am very pleased I got to see. I laughed, I cried and I saw magic on the stage - what more could you want from an evening’s entertainment.

This show was reviewed on the 23rd March 2024 at The Watermill Theatre, where it runs until the 30th March 2024.  Tickets available here: WENDY & PETER PAN (watermill.org.uk)

"Blue" are performing on the 28th and 30th March and "Green" are performing 24th and 29th March.

Review written by Maria Crocker

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