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Review: Peter Pan, by JM Barrie, adapted by Daniel Buckroyd and Matthew Cullum, Colchester Mercury, until August 26.

PUBLISHED: 11:56 08 August 2017 | UPDATED: 13:07 08 August 2017

James Peake and Pete Ashmore in Colchester Mercury's production of Peter Pan. Photo: Robert Day

James Peake and Pete Ashmore in Colchester Mercury's production of Peter Pan. Photo: Robert Day

Archant

The timeless re-telling of the classic story Peter Pan has had a burst of new life injected into it by the team of Daniel Buckroyd and Matthew Cullum. Barrie’s wonderful story about the boy who never grew up started life as a stage play before being turned into a best-selling novel, so it is fitting that Buckroyd and Cullum have returned this tale of children and their fears of the adult world to the stage for this innovative adaptation.

Colchester Mercury's summer production Peter Pan. Photo: Robert Day Colchester Mercury's summer production Peter Pan. Photo: Robert Day

The brilliant conceit that powers this entertaining and endlessly inventive show is that the whole story is told as if the Darling children themselves are staging the play in their own nursery. The bath becomes a row boat, a pair of cricket bats become oars, while their pram becomes the giant crocodile who is intent on devouring the evil Captain Hook.

Buckroyd and Cullum continue the tradition that the mercurial Mr Darling also plays Hook, a man who has dedicated his life to ridding the world of the eternally youthful and free-spirited Peter Pan. Peter, played in an energetic loose-limbed fashion by Emilio Iannucci, is the only role that’s not doubled and played by the children.

It’s an actor musician show and so the action is punctuated with brief musical numbers and pirate songs accompanied by violin, mandolins, accordion and tuba. There is also a dramatic underscore which heightens the action at key points which the directors are wise not to over-use.

The actors are uniformly good – it’s a real ensemble show – and they deserve immense praise for the sheer number of quick changes that they have to rattle through because the pace doesn’t slacken for one moment.

Charlotte Mafham as Wendy and Pete Ashmore as Mr Darling/Captain Hook are especially good.

Simon Kenny’s highly adaptable nursery set is a temple of ingenuity. Who would have thought desk drawers could become beds in Neverland and a re-configured nursery, complete with wardrobe and chests of drawers, would recreate a convincing pirate ship?

It’s a real family show with something for both children and adults. The ending is surprisingly moving. It runs for a month doing matinees and early evening shows. Catch it if you can, you won’t be disappointed.

Andrew Clarke

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