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Review: PETER PAN, Exeter Northcott Theatre

J.M. Barrie's classic story about the boy who never grows up is always a popular production at Christmas, with its magical plot, engaging characters and depiction of the melancholic journey through adolescence certain to ensure a warm and magical sentiment in readiness for the festive season.

Part of Peter Pan's enduring charm is its blend of sadness and delight, but to get both in an appropriate quantity is no easy task and sadly the production at Exeter's Northcott Theatre doesn't quite get it right.

Performed by an excellent cast, which boasts boundless energy and an abundance of adorable attitude, the show is unfortunately a little confused about which genre it fits into. Neither fully a play nor a pantomime, the Devon theatre's adaptation leaves audiences feeling perplexed and unsure as to whether they are to laugh at or with the gaggle of youthful performers, leaving a disquieting sensation within the auditorium at times.

The discomfort is further fuelled by a calamitous technical display, including tangled fly wires, clunking set moves and wobbling high=level pieces, which can leave you fearing for the performers' safety and wondering if you have accidentally pitched up at Mischief Theatre's Peter Pan Goes Wrong rather than a 'straight' version of the traditional fairytale. A catalogue of missed microphone queues and some inexplicably slow scene changes makes the job of the hard-working performers even more difficult.

That said, Laura Prior, as the energetic young sprite Peter Pan, does a grand job of stoically continuing despite the numerous setbacks. Kerry Peers is equally as good as both Captain Hook and Mrs Darling and Macy Nyman as Wendy encapsulates the essence of an innocent preteen on the verge of adulthood. The Lost Boys add a lovely dose of youthful exuberance, while the band of troublesome pirates is delightfully clumsy and stupid.

The decision to cast a hairy hulk as Tinkerbell in the shape of Steve Bennett is initially amusing, but it does result in some of the traditional magic of the story being lost.

Dominic Jeffery's lighting and Daniel Denton's video projections help to give an enchanting sparkle with wonderful seascapes and cloudy night skies giving a dreamlike backdrop.

Greg Hall's charming folk-style musical accompaniment further adds to the bewitching atmosphere and there is glorious bit of interval entertainment from some of the seafaring scoundrels.

After completing the first few shows, hopefully some of the initial technical issues will be ironed out and the cast of patient performers will be able to add more flow to their dialogue without being hampered by the mechanical mayhem.

Peter Pan at Exeter Northcott until 1 January

Picture Credit: Matt Austin

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From This Author - Nicky Sweetland