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Riverside Players - Peter Pan

21st to 25th August 2001, at Pangbourne College.

This is from the Newbury Weekly News.

Flights of fantasy

'PETER PAN', performed by the Riverside Players, in the outdoor theatre at Pangbourne College, from Tuesday, August 22 to Saturday, August 25

What sheer delight this production was, on a balmy night as twilight fell - the theatre lights played across a magical set, illuminating, in eerie green and blue, the moths which darted through the air. You imagined they were fairies.

This was the 50th anniversary for the Riverside Players, a unique amateur theatre company formed by former students of the Central School of Speech and Drama and this new version of Peter Pan, by John Caird and Trevor Nunn, was the perfect way to utilise the 50-strong cast which spanned three generations - the youngest barely three years old.

They had converged on Pangbourne from all over the country with an equally huge production team to stage and perform Barrie's classic tale in just two weeks, and you could feel the energy.

The production's imaginative design and gentle humour captured my seven-year-old's attention throughout the two-and-a-half hour running time, despite the lateness of the hour, as it did with the many other children in the near-capacity audience.

There were many highlights - a hovering ball of light announced the presence of the petulant Tinkerbell. No clumsy wires, but a host of sparkling hooded figures lifted the Darling children on fairy dust for the flight to Never Land.

Languid mermaids with shimmering tails splashed around a real lagoon, and we all leapt six feet off our seats at the crack of cannon fire from the dastardly Captain Hook's pirate ship.

This all took place on an ingenious set which allowed six performance areas, including a two-level revolving stage, and making good use of the trees in the college grounds.

The key roles were well cast with a suitably impish Peter Pan, fresh-faced Darling children, and of course the swashbuckling Hook with his motley crew, including the first-ever Welsh nonconformist Smee. Nana proved to be the most comic canine nanny you'll ever meet. A word too for the endearing Lost Boys who, led by a superb Slightly (Soiled), grew as a team as the performance went on.

This was the company's most technically complex challenge yet - how we all roared with laughter as well as approval when the ticking croc finally trundled on, with Hook tucked nicely in between his teeth.

The closing scene was an epilogue, a reminder of the loss of make-believe and the disillusion at never being able to recapture what has been lost. It brought us adults back down with a bump from our flight of fantasy.