"Production still finding its wings"
by Avril Silk for remotegoat on 07/12/16

‘Peter Pan’ is Exeter’s Northcott Christmas show – hugely ambitious and gorgeous to look at. As I write, I am aware that after initial problems over the opening weekend, some forthcoming performances have been cancelled as it is felt the show needs further refining, partly in the light of the health and safety issues around the aerial work. I am hugely sympathetic as the talented cast and production team have the makings of a truly memorable show, fizzing with clever, imaginative ideas. I enjoyed a schools matinee (revelling in the freedom from responsibility that comes when the children belong to other people!) but felt that the show is in need of a hefty dose of oomph. The level of excitement was palpable, and those kids would have happily sung along, shouted ‘He’s behind you!’ and booed and hissed in the best pantomime tradition. They were thrilled to see Steve Bennett’s wonderfully preposterous Tinkerbell and we all wanted more. Kerry Peers, as a Jack Sparrow-inspired Captain Hook, engaged thoroughly with the audience, and when that happened, the terrific potential of the play was evident. Psychologists in the audience have much food for thought when Mr and Mrs Darling’s dream counterparts are, respectively, a spiteful fairy and a dashing buccaneer…

My recurring theme in this review is ‘More, please!’ More menace. More danger. More raucousness – especially the pirates. Cygnet students, particularly Jake Sullivan, Jessica Parsons and Scott Simpson, added a welcome shot in the arm with their exuberance and energy – I would have relished more. And crucially, I wanted more volume. All credit to Laura Prior’s Peter Pan for audibility and a thoughtful, likeable interpretation of a challenging, mercurial role.

Macy Nyman gave Wendy a charming mix of gentleness and spirit, and I particularly liked her adult persona. At times, though, I strained to hear her. The programme tells me that Director Paul Jepson’s wife was unenthusiastic about the possibility of Wendy wearing a nightgown. I bet Macy Nyman was unenthusiastic about the pantaloon option, as was I. If not a nightie, then how about a dressing gown over pyjamas?

Even with the sense that I was watching a subdued version of a still emerging show, I found much to enjoy. The mermaids are glorious to behold and their singing delightful. Captain Hook and Smee (Mark Carlisle) performed a surprising and very funny dance. Ellan Parry’s designs – both set and costume, are stunning and having the nursery as a constant is intelligent and creative. A special paean of praise for the ravishing projections courtesy of video designer Daniel Denton and lighting designer Dominic Jeffery. Their work is beautiful, witty and amazingly atmospheric.

A big ‘well done’ to the local schoolchildren taking part. They served Team Hook and Team Pan well. Reading their comments in the programme I realise how disappointed some of them must be that their flying has had to be curtailed. I hope that is only temporary, because with much hard work and talent, this production of ‘Peter Pan’ deserves to fly.

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