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.


Mark Fisher

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Wendy and Peter Pan review – swashbuckling bombast, darkness and laughs
After a run at the Tokyo Olympics, this production arrives in Britain with every ounce of humour and verve exploited to the full

Nick Ahad

06, Jan, 2022 @9:34 AM

Article image
Around the World in 80 Days review – Phileas Fogg’s adventure goes alfresco
A touch more peril might help an otherwise playful retelling of the Jules Verne voyage with a cast full of bounce and brio

Mark Fisher

14, Jul, 2022 @9:39 AM

Article image
Peter Pan review – Barrie classic staged with plenty of pixie dust
Making Wendy younger gives a different dynamic to Deborah McAndrew’s engaging adaptation, with Baker Mukasa’s spontaneous Peter

Mark Fisher

05, Dec, 2019 @12:33 PM

Article image
How I made Wendy the real star of Peter Pan
The director Sally Cookson is renowned for turning family shows upside down. As her National Theatre Peter Pan opens, she talks about why she made Wendy the real star of the show

Viv Groskop

19, Nov, 2016 @1:06 PM

Article image
Peter Pan review – dark mischief and a wicked Tinkerbell steal the show
Sally Cookson’s stunning production brims with naughtiness, bloodlust and menace – recalling JM Barrie’s original intentions for the story

Arifa Akbar

28, Jul, 2019 @12:37 PM

Article image
The Magic of Christmas review – Clare Grogan steps in to help Santa find his way
Filmed at Pitlochry when a live show was prevented, Elizabeth Newman’s charming adventure channels star power to rescue festive spirit

Mark Fisher

10, Dec, 2020 @8:00 PM

Article image
Peter and the Starcatcher review – Peter Pan prequel never finds its wings
Director Luke Sheppard throws everything he can at Rick Elice’s convoluted story, but it still can’t touch JM Barrie’s masterpiece

Lyn Gardner

06, Dec, 2016 @12:02 PM

Article image
Wendy and Peter Pan review – a blast of fairy dust
Ella Hickson’s adaptation of JM Barrie’s story is a funny and heartbreaking coming-of-age tale for its swashbuckling heroine

Mark Fisher

03, Dec, 2018 @11:33 AM

Article image
Wendy and Peter Pan – review

This reinvention of JM Barrie's story dispenses with the original's dark ambiguity, but there's still plenty to enjoy, writes Michael Billington

Michael Billington

19, Dec, 2013 @11:58 AM

Article image
Peter Pan review – skilful tale of the lost boys of war
Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel’s clever new production, set in a military hospital, soars with ingenuity but doesn’t reach the magic height of JM Barrie’s original

Michael Billington

25, May, 2015 @11:29 AM