Creation Theatre Company - Peter Pan
1st December 2018 to 5th January 2019
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Faith, trust and pixie dust in Dismaland
Creation's 'distinctly provocative' Peter Pan
Peter Pan, at the North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford, until January 5
The first thing you notice in Creation Theatre Company's new production of JM Barrie's Peter Pan, written and directed by Gari Jones, is designer Ryan Dawson Laight's fairground lettering above, spelling out Neverland in a way that recalls Banksy's dystopian theme park critique, Dismaland. Banksy's was a postmodern attraction that was antithetical to the saccharine and hostile to popular Disneyfication. This production, with its strong cast of Creation regulars, is also far from Disney and distinctively provocative.
The play opens with an intriguing discourse between the actors, spotlit around the auditorium, debating the key concept in the play – growing up. Jones is reflecting the criticisms of writers like Philip Pullman who have said that Peter Pan's denial of adulthood is abhorrent.
In Peter Pan, what is often twee and sentimental is here confrontational and impish. Neverland really is dismal, its fairies typified by the clumping, sarcastic, punkish Tinkerbell (James Burton), his hair adorned by the letter T designed in the style of the Neverland sign overhead. The pirates are led by the vicious Captain Hook (Shelley Atkinson), a bully and coward who disembowels one of her crew in a gruesomely comic killing. She wears a dark schooner on a hat that's quite wonderful, battling Peter for the souls of the already departed. The Lost Boys, armed and dangerous and not innocent little kids, shoot the 'Wendy bird' (Sophie Greenham) out of the sky, a reflection of the hostility of today's populations against foreigners.
Many of Peter Pan's most famous lines, like 'Never say goodbye, because goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting' bring a deep sense of melancholy to the production. The Darling children's life at home is seen as a vacuous waste of childhood, with the pernickety John (Lewis Chandler) and his reckless brother Michael (Annabelle Terry) frittering their time away on interactive games and social media sites.
However, like a horror demon who does not die, the boy Peter (Rob Hadden) returns to the adult Wendy, now a mother with a daughter and lures her child to Neverland.