Peter Pan flies in to Bishop’s Stortford
If you’re Bishop’s Stortford way – and if you believe in fairies – then the Rhodes Theatre’s production of Peter Pan, running all this week, is definitely worth a look. It’s thoroughly charming family theatre, taking a story we all sort of know, adds a shed-load of songs, and is about as far from Disney as you could hope for. It’s not quite a panto – although you could be forgiven for thinking so in the second half – but it’s got that same family feel to it, along with some slightly saucy jokes to keep the grown-ups laughing.
The performances were so strong, too. Bearing in mind that the cast is taken largely from the local Phoenix Theatre School, I was blown away by not only the quality of the performances but the confidence that was coming off the lot of ‘em, even down to the littlest cast members. The sheer energy of the Lost Boys was a brilliant foil for the bumbling grown-up pirates and the fearsome Captain Hook – all of them, of course, on the look-out for a mother.
I feel a bit bad singling any of them out, but Tinkerbell was perfect – a stroppy, jingly fairy with buckets of attitude. Peter Pan was the right combination of charming and petulant – he’s such an odd character, Peter, but she really cracked it. Captain Hook was funny and seriously scary – until he heard the crocodile ticking, of course. And the crocodile was very cool. Loved the slightly (well, perhaps more than slightly) camp Starkey, too. And the little lad, in his plaid pyjamas, giving it his best in the song about fairies had even my oh-so-cool nearly-teen ooo-ing and ahh-ing.
The lighting and staging deserve a mention, too. With the inevitable focus on performance, all that can sometimes take a back seat – but not in this production. The set for the bedroom was gorgeous, with elements of it re-appearing throughout, bringing out that whole dream-like quality from the book. And the use of screens and the lighting were really impressive. The choreography, too. The Indian dance in particular was stunning — and a real challenge as they were all brandishing huge sticks and it’s not a huge stage.
One of the inevitable challenges of staging Peter Pan is, of course, the whole flying thing. Yes, I know that all it should take is fairy dust and thinking wonderful thoughts but… well, especially in a small theatre like Rhodes, it’s going to take some doing. I’m not going to tell you how they managed it – the surprise is definitely part of the joy of it – but suffice it to say, it was magical and properly creative.
I’d not been to the Rhodes Theatre before, either. It’s a bit of a drive from me, to be honest, but it’s a little gem. There’s all sorts there — the art gallery looked fab — and the cafe and bar area was great to hang out in beforehand.
I took my eldest – he’s 11, just started secondary school, knows everything – and he actually loved it. I’d worried that it might be a bit too ‘little kid’ for him, but he was laughing away with the best of them, booing Captain Hook, and clapping his hands to keep Tinkerbell alive. (Don’t tell him I told you, though.) He even managed to admit it was ‘pretty cool’ when I asked him what he thought of it. My youngest – 5, needs no convincing to believe in fairies – would have loved it.
It’s not on for long, and judging by last night’s audience, I can’t imagine there are loads of tickets left. But if you can get to see it, do. It’s proper old-school family theatre – no references to the telly, no celebs, no ‘bringing it up to date.’ And when some of those little lovies make it big, you’ll have a story to tell about how you saw them first, back in the day, in Peter Pan.