Peter Pan is a classic – whether you know it as the original children’s book by J.M Barrie, the Disney animation, or any of the other cinematic adaptations that have come since. The problem with a popular story that has been told and retold again is that oftentimes, there is no originality left – you’re so familiar with the story, that there’s nothing new or innovative.
However, the audience of The Bolton Octagon’s production of Peter Pan have no such worries – this show has the reassuringly familiar storylines and much-loved characters; yet has been staged so dynamically (and features new musical numbers) that it almost feels like watching it for the very first time.
Adapted for stage in 2018 by Sarah Punchon, this production has been brought to life in Bolton by Artistic Director Lotte Wakeman – and what a show it is! It’s got musical numbers, acrobatic elements, witty dialogue, an incredible acting ensemble (and even a giant crocodile)…all taking place on a small, simple stage in the round.
On first glance, the staging doesn’t look like much – a small, circular raised platform stage in the middle of the theatre – but there were so many little surprises hidden in the nooks and crannies that were as unexpected as they were delightful for the audience. It shows, more than ever, that looks can be deceiving – never underestimate the magic of Never Neverland!
A set like this requires a cast who are not afraid to bring it to life – and this performance had this in spades. Only 5 cast members were used in the entire piece (playing a total of 18 different characters!), and each one was a perfect fit – their physicality was perfect for a stage in the round. With this cast, the audience feels like they’re right there with Wendy and Peter, flying through the skies and taking the “second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.”
A special mention to the innovative casting of a non-binary Tinkerbell, a lovely, subtle way to bring the story into the 21st Century and resonate with a modern audience. Tinkerbell, flamboyantly played by Jason Patel, was the perfect accoutrement to the dynamic duo of Peter Pan and Captain Hook, both played brilliantly by Matthew Heywood and Amy Drake respectively.
If you want to see a serious, critically acclaimed piece of theatre, this is not the show for you. However, if you’re willing to leave your worries at the door and get involved in this fun, interactive show, you’re sure to have a great time.
As J.M Barrie once said: “All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust” – and this production has plenty of pixie dust to go around. A truly special production that’s great for the whole family.
Peter Pan will be flying through The Bolton Octagon until Sunday 9th January 2022. https://octagonbolton.co.uk/whats-on/theatre/peter-pan/
Reviewer: Hannah Wilde
Reviewed: 2nd December 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★