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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Vale’

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.

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You don’t really expect a quartet of people ‘off the telly’ at Soho Theatre and the audience for this did seem a bit un-Soho. The ‘alternative’ Christmas show they got seemed unfinished and a bit underpowered.

Gary apprehends an elf breaking into his warehouse but instead of calling the police he calls his mate Simon, because he thinks it might actually be one of Santa’s elves. Simon certainly doesn’t think so and for a while we’re getting nowhere. It isn’t until prostitute Cherry turns up for her son’s promised present half-way through that the play takes off. This is where it also gets filthier, but we do get their back stories too – failed careers, broken marriages, unfulfilled lives. The addition of songs is a bit half-hearted and clumsy and I think it might be better without them. Michael Vale’s uber-realistic warehouse is great though.

In Steve Marmion’s production, the performances all seemed a bit tentative, even though it had played more than 10 shows and had already been shown to the press. Maybe actors more used to TV were uncomfortable with the live experience, or maybe they were under rehearsed? They all had their moments – Teachers’ Navin Chowdhry, Shameless’ Rebecca Atkinson and a pair of Corrie Craigs – Gazey & Kelly – but they weren’t consistent.

Maybe it was an off night. Maybe it’ll settle. Based on this performance, though, Anthony Neilson’s play is a potentially good alternative Christmas show trying to get out.

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