Thursday, September 28

Peter Pan – St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden

The magic of fairy dust and imagination, the power of flying, and the enchantment of caring. Crocodiles and pirates, mermaids and the Lost Boys. What else could anyone possible want?

Slapstick Picnic is presenting J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, a new version of the famous children’s story, with a cast of three, in an outdoor stage version. Directed by Nel Crouch, designed by Ella Barraclough, and with movement direction by Jennifer Fletcher, the play is set in a simple stage, designed by Studio Polpo, with a few contraptions that will surprise the audience. However, the piece relies heavily on the acting prowess of the three performers: Charlotte Driessler, as Mr Darling, John, Tinker Bell, Smee, and Tootles; Lucy Green as Wendy, Nana, Hook, and Slightly; and William Ross-Fawcett as Mrs. Darling, Peter, Nibs, and some pirates. As can be seen from the list, the cast plays several characters that cross paths all the time, and the effect of this becomes a clear example of making virtue out of necessity. The actors go on an overload of energy and dynamism that pulls the audience into the story like a whirlwind.

On the day of this review, it had been a rainy day, and this led me to think that it is a very bold decision to make an outdoor theatre production in London. However, the production team informed me that there was the possibility of having an indoor version of the performance.

When arriving at the space where the play will take place, the audience will find a raggedy stage, covered with drapes with checked patterns that will be everywhere around for the next two hours. Like a bedsheet fort, the view is between cute and decadent. While waiting to begin, the actors walk around the audience, preparing some props, checking that everything goes well. After a short announcement from one of the actors that starts setting the mood, all three actors come out eating strawberries and walking between the people sitting and waiting for the show.

From that moment on, the time becomes one big rush, with the three actors unleashing bodies, voices, and faces into the audience, through fighting, flying, and dancing. Small details such as puppets, dolls, and more strawberries make for a hilarious stream of laughter. The ingenuous humour is magic and the simplicity in it all makes it even more appealing.

There are numerous highlights in the play, ranging from Driessler’s Tinkerbell and her language, Ross-Fawcett’s Peter Pan and his desire for attention, to the amazing Captain Hook played by Lucy Green, and their beautiful attire. Even Smee, played masterfully by Driessler, is a weird, annoying and boring character that is fun to watch.

On the night of this review, there seemed to be magic in the air. The timing of the night, the fresh air in the summer evening, the birds cawing and the lights of the garden of the church, all conspired for a magical performance. In a moment where there was some music on stage, even the bells from the church started to sing, and mix with the music, in what felt like a perfectly planned moment.

Rediscover what Peter Pan truly means: in this show, all is play and joy. Join Slapstick Picnic in their joyful recreation of this classic fairy-tale.

Reviewer: Gonzalo Sentana

Reviewed: 13th July 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.