“We’re kids. We’re meant to have fun”. Peter Pan: Reimagined spins an old classic into a new tale, with a poignant social message.
Liam Steel’s reimagining of Peter Pan brings maturity, without loosing childlike magic. Steel builds on the original story with touching social commentary; child carers and the adult responsibilities some children take on, at the expense of their youth. This shapes the story of Wendy, her two brothers, and their encounter with Peter Pan. Fostered by Jess, a single woman, Wendy (played by Cora Tsang) is too protective of her younger brothers, and has forgotten to just be a kid.
Moving away from it’s original Edwardian getup, Peter Pan is distinctly set in Birmingham (a myriad of locational and colloquial references sees to that). It also wholeheartedly stages working class backgrounds, a refreshing and enjoyable change. Out of the opening setting of a cold, concrete council estate, blooms an incredible adventure.
Lawrence Walker, as Peter Pan, is delightfully innocence and energetic. It is he who swoops Wendy and her brother’s into the colourful world of the ragtag ‘lost ones’ versus rock metal pirates. Neverland cleverly parallels the real world, with Jess becoming Captain Hook; the two contrasting roles are portrayed excellently by Nia Gywnne. Even the conventional stereotypes of Motherhood is reinvisioned and poked fun at. Wendy is in demand as a mother, to the ‘lost ones’ and eventually the pirates. In the end, it is her relinquishing of this role that gives her childhood back. Kids, we see, should just be allowed to be kids.
All ages are encouraged to enjoy Peter Pan, as humourous visual gags and sneaky ‘adult’ jokes are charmingly slotted throughout. It is Mirabelle Gremund’s performance of Tinkerbell that really steals the show, as a ridiculously glittery, sassy companion, spouting gibberish ‘fairy’ language and tumbling her way around stage.
Peter Pan is first and foremost a visual delight. Steel’s version has a darker visage, to match the political sentiments and modernity. Heavy synth beats and evil mermaids are but two examples of The Boy Who Couldn’t Grow Up’s dramatic reimagining. The frequent set changes revealed elaborare imaginings of Neverland, without losing the background high-rise estate. There is an extraordinary level of detail in the set, props and costumes, created using recycled materials. All this and the wonderful aerial display, as the actors ‘flew’ around on bungee cords, created a spectacle that didn’t attempt to conceal workings the illusion.
Peter Pan plays at Birmingham Repertory Theatre until the 19th of January.