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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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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Peter Pan, Royal Lyceum theatre review

Published in The Guardian

Peter Pan

Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
4 out of 5

Peter Pan is the only play where the pre-show announcement about switching off watch alarms applies as much to the characters as it does the audience. One too many ticking clocks and the time-sensitive Captain Hook will be forced to leap overboard.

Here, the message is read out very sweetly by the children of composer Philip Pinsky, just as the colourful front cloth and the Chinese dragon-style crocodile are the work of two youngsters who share a surname with designer Francis O'Connor. It's an entertaining touch and a reminder that, as we approach the 150th anniversary of the playwright's birth, JM Barrie's 1904 classic offers a vision of childhood from the perspective of the young as well as the old.

Nowhere is this tension more keenly felt than in the relationship between Peter and Wendy. In Jemima Levick's lively production, Scott Fletcher portrays the boy who wouldn't grow up with a complete absence of self-reflection. That he has no memory of the past and no interest in the future is expected. More surprising is that he shows only the scantest awareness of the present. No time for the thigh-slapping enjoyment of living in the moment: he just gets on with his adventures as if in a dream-like void.

Kim Gerard's Wendy, by contrast, is aching to make the transition from childhood to sexual maturity. She is less delighted by Peter's antics than impatient for them to come to an end. His is a world she is leaving behind – flying, pirates, mermaids and all – and what makes the final sequence so touching is the conflict between her understanding that time moves on and his innocent belief that childhood lasts for ever.

It is a good-looking production – all skewed angles, outsize furniture and a fair amount of magical flying – in which the actors deliver sections of Barrie's elaborate stage directions as well as their lines to give the show a story-telling flavour. The most striking departure from tradition is Samuel Dutton's interpretation of Tinker Bell as a wild commedia dell'arte-style sprite, complete with walking boots, tutu and flying goggles, who talks in gobbledegook, shattering every memory of Disney schmaltz. If it diminishes the force of the usually touching scene in which the audience wills the poisoned fairy back to life, it gives the production a ribald energy that does much to counter Barrie's sentimental streak.

Until 3 January. Box office: 0131-248 4848.

© Mark Fisher 2009

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