Until 12 January 2020; 2hr 30min
Chester’s Storyhouse is ringing the changes with its festive offering of Peter Pan. As part of its Storyhouse Originals series, artistic director Alex Clifton commissioned award-winning playwright Gary Owen to retell JM Barrie’s classic children’s story, transposing the setting from turn of the century London to 21st Century Chester – and Mr and Mrs Darling from a classic Edwardian couple to today’s "just about managing" family.
The play does this while retaining the fantasy aspects of the original story - Neverland , the Lost Boys, fairies, pirates, and of course the forever young and flying Peter Pan with his equally aerobatic sidekick, the fairy Tinkerbell. This touch of social realism, sprinkled like fairy dust on the fantasy storyline, can be confusing.
So ignore the clunky plot and enjoy the energetic and enthusiastic performances from a mostly young and relatively untried cast. James Phoon (Peter Pan) struts his egotistical stuff worthy of any teen idol. Georgiana Jackson (Wendy) transforms seamlessly from teenage daughter to the surrogate mother figure the Lost Boys crave, and shows great promise in her professional debut.
Don’t be fooled by the pink and frothy fairy persona of Tinkerbell, (Carlie Enoch); she is nobody's fool and tells it like it is, but has a fatally weak spot for flying boys called Peter. So does Tiger Lily (Charlotte Gosling), intent on saving Peter from the clutches of the villainous but vain Captain Hook (Imogen Slaughter).
The set, a stark echoing of an abandoned playground or the Darling’s uninspiring bedroom interior, leaves much work to be done by the actors to create the alternative fantasy world of Neverland. Designer April Dalton has colour-coded costumes to help this along – dull greys and neutrals for life in Chester and bright colours for Neverland.
The original story does have an underlying narrative about orphans and foundlings, all vulnerable Lost Boys (and girls) in a hostile adult world, and this production echoes these social concerns.
But will a young audience get it?