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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Peter Pan, Visible Fictions review

Published in The Guardian © Mark Fisher

Peter Pan, Visible Fictions review

Platform, Glasgow
4 out of 5

JM Barrie's 1904 classic novel expresses troubling psychological ideas through the lightest of means. But, ironically, the story of a boy who can fly is frequently grounded by Edwardian whimsy and heavy-handed staging. For 21st century tastes, the middle-class children can seem cloying rather than adventurous, while the effort of recreating a Bloomsbury town house, a pirate ship and the land of the Lost Boys can weigh a production down.

None of this applies to Douglas Irvine's sprightly staging for his own Visible Fictions company, a collaboration with the Children's Theatre Company of Minneapolis, where the production has played to acclaim. By freeing himself from the constraints of naturalism - an all but empty stage and casting that pays no regard to gender or even species - the director puts the playfulness back into Barrie's story and, in doing so, lets the darker themes about innocence and ageing hit home more powerfully.

The third part of this collaboration is Italy's Massimo Arbarello, whose shadow puppets are operated by the six actors and projected on to a screen. Introduced upon our arrival into Never Land, the technique initially threatens to sap the actor-centred energy built up in the opening scene. But by gradually blurring the boundary between puppet and performer, such as when three silhouetted pirates appear to drag Suzanne Donaldson's 3D Wendy across the stage, Irvine uses it as another example of the imaginative transformation at which children, and theatre, excel.

In this present-tense world everything is as fleeting as a shadow (no wonder Jon-Paul Rowden's lithe Peter so easily loses his) and so much more enjoyable than the earthbound perspective of adulthood. Whatever the "two wet things" were in Wendy's eyes, there were two in mine as well.

© Mark Fisher, 2009

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