Play is at the heart of Sally Cookson's version of Peter Pan, set in a derelict space that children have turned into their own Neverland; a place where they can fight pirates and fulfil their dream of flying. Michael Vale's clever design turns broken traffic cones into the jaws of the crocodile that pursues Captain Hook, and the pirate ship is a rusted old skip. The pleasure of the show is that it always exposes the mechanics – including the rigging for the flying – and invites audiences of all ages to bring their imaginations to bear.
It's a wonderful idea and one that pays dividends in a cross-dressing, free‑flying production that slyly updates the female roles: Theone Rashleigh's Tiger Lily is permanently furious, Saikat Ahamed's Tinker Bell is alien, anarchic and noisy, and Madeleine Worrall's memorable Wendy strips away the Edwardian petticoats and generations of ingrained gender perceptions. This Wendy understands the tragedy of being grown up and unable to fly, and in the final, beautifully wrought moments facilitates her own daughter's Neverland adventure. If there is anything as cumbersome as a message, it is to give your children freedom and independence, but always leave the window open.
Perhaps the show lacks a real sense of wonder, but it makes up for it with humour: Nana the dog is a burly man in a pinny; the mermaids are bearded sirens who sing, "Hello boys". The masterstroke is the casting of Tristan Sturrock, an actor well past boyhood, who lends the character an ageless quality and invests Peter with the charisma and desperate heartlessness of Barrie's original "demon boy". When he first invites Wendy to fly away with him, it feels like a seduction. This Peter and Captain Hook (Stuart Mcloughlin) share a ruthless streak which makes them worthy adversaries as they vie to be cock of the walk in the kingdom of play.