Peter Pan and Wendy review – modern-day myth goes light on existential dread

Pitlochry Festival theatre
This wholesome adaptation, featuring a preening Captain Hook, focuses on playroom fun in a beautifully designed production

Captain Hook looks as if he has stepped out of the court of Louis XIV. His head is half wig, half galleon, buoyant on a sea of blond curls. It is such a striking image that it takes a moment to notice the boots finished with pearls or the rings on the fingers of his one working hand. Played by Colin McCredie, this is Hook as a dandy – a baddie more interested in preening than finishing off his adversaries.

And “played” is the operative word. Ben Occhipinti’s wholesome production of an adaptation by Janys Chambers focuses on the make-believe quality of JM Barrie’s original. You could not mistake McCredie for a real villain – he elicits neither a hiss nor a boo. Rather, he is a dressing-up box pirate, more narcissist than threat.

It is the same across the board. Hook is not above killing people, but when he does, they writhe, wriggle and slink away like momentary losers in a children’s game. You never doubt they will return in full health.

Colin McCredie as Captain Hook and Deirdre Davis as Smee.
More narcissist than threat … Colin McCredie as Captain Hook and Deirdre Davis as Smee. Photograph: Fraser Band

This is the present-tense Neverland in which Fiona Wood’s radiant Wendy finds herself. In the most affecting scene, she and her brothers (Ruairidh McDonald and Stephanie Payne) lose sight of the past altogether. No longer is Wendy play-acting the mother to the Lost Boys; she has forgotten her own mother and taken on the role for real. It’s as if the clock has raced forward and her maternal destiny has arrived. The shock galvanises her into action and precipitates their journey home, but not before she dispels the temptation to stay in this dreamlike state for ever.

Robbie Scott’s Peter Pan justifies the temptation. For all his bouts of self-aggrandisement, he makes lively, likable, uncomplicated company.

Barrie’s modern-day myth has depths this staging skims across. This version privileges playroom fun over risk and jeopardy, let alone existential dread. But it looks gorgeous on Anna Orton’s simple circular set, boldly lit by Simon Wilkinson. The children tumble out of their enormous bed (or “big white sleeping thing” as Patricia Panther’s Tinkerbell calls it), and fly above our heads to take us on a brisk and weightless fantasy.

• Peter Pan and Wendy is at Pitlochry Festival theatre until 23 December.

Contributor

Mark Fisher

The GuardianTramp

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