Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Felix Hayes’

When booking opened for this I decided I didn’t need another Peter Pan. Then I realised it was the same team who brought a brilliant Jane Eyre to this very stage. Need became want and all willpower was lost. A good decision and a brilliant 12th night ending to the festive season.

Visually grungy but colourful, all scrapyard and striped pyjamas, Michael Vale & Katie Sykes design gives it a home-made feel. A huge metal frame, to facilitate flying with people as counter-balances, fills the Olivier. There’s a giant white brick wall at the back, with holes smashed through for two spaces for musicians and action. It looks like Jackson Pollock painted the floor, in one of his more cheerful, colourful moments. When the pirate ship sails in, we all gasped. The look is terrific.

Without messing with J M Barrie’s story, Dramaturg Mike Akers and director Sally Cookson have somehow enhanced both the playfulness and the morality of the tale. There’s a great rock and reggae infused score by Benji Bower, with the lost boys food song an absolute joy. The whole thing has been developed by the company and it shows in a tightly knit ensemble.

Anna Francolini is excellent as both Mrs Darling and Captain Hook, played by a woman as Barrie apparently originally intended. I adored Felix Hayes characterisation of Mr Darling (he also plays Smee and a lost boy). Madeleine Worrall is a delight as Wendy, with Marc Antolin and John Pfumojena equally delightful as John and Michael. Paul Hilton is an unlikely Peter but he makes it his own. Saikat Ahamed’s Tinker Bell is an extraordinary interpretation, as is Ekow Quartey as Nana the dog nanny. You can’t help falling in love with the pyjama-clad lost boys, some with brightly coloured woolly jumpers and hats.

It’s a long way from the National’s classic Peter Pan exactly 20 years ago (with Ian McKellern, Jenny Agutter, Daniel Evans, Alec McCowan and Clive Rowe!) and in many ways more magical. Another import from / co-production with the very enterprising Bristol Old Vic. Great stuff.

Read Full Post »

Though I’ve seen screen, TV and stage adaptations, I have to confess I’ve never read Charlotte Bronte’s clearly autobiographical book. Sally Cookson and her company and creative team here deliver a Kneehighesque Complicite-like staging. It uses every trick in the minimalist book (apart from puppets!) – bare wooden stage, platforms steps & ladders, frames & lightbulbs, fire & smoke, ‘movement’ & music. It proves to be a highly effective, lucid, nicely rounded production.

It’s a touch slow to take off and to settle, but I was shocked when I realised at the end of the first half that 100 minutes has passed; it didn’t feel like it. Mind you, it took us from Jane’s birth through her miserable childhood with her aunt, schooling and teaching at Lowood to Thornfield and her position as governess, and the seeds of her relationship with Mr Rochester. I thought her period as teacher was rushed and the passion between her and Rochester played down, but it was very good storytelling nonetheless. The 70 minute second half covers a much shorter, more intense period as the relationship evolves as an emotional roller-coaster, returning to birth, of Jane’s child. It held me throughout, though it didn’t move me as much as I would have expected (though the lady next to me was in tears, normally my default position).

Ten actors and musicians play all of the roles. Madeleine Worrall’s journey from feisty child to defiantly independent woman is very well navigated. Laura Elphinstone manages five characterisations including brilliant performances as school friend Helen and Rochester’s French ward Adele. Felix Hayes has a commanding presence as Rochester and Maggie Tagney doubles up as the evil aunt Mrs Reed and the more empathetic housekeeper Mrs Fairfax and does both very well. Oh, and Craig Edwards is a superb dog (amongst other roles)! There’s a very eclectic selection of music from Benji Bower (including Noel Coward’s Mad About the Boy!) most played live by his on-stage trio and it adds much to the success of the evening. The wonderful Melanie Marshall’s singing is heavenly.

I was worried that this style might be a bit lost on the Lyttleton stage (I kept imagining it in BAC’s Grand Hall, its natural home), but that was less of an issue than I thought, at lease from mid-stalls. I was also worried the NT audience might not take to it, but the ovation proved me well and truly wrong. A very welcome co-production with Bristol Old Vic, whose Artistic Director brought Jerry Springer – The Opera, Coram Boy, A Matter of Life & Death and War Horse to the NT’s stages – what a track record!

Read Full Post »