Saturday, 12 December 2015

Djanogly Theatre, Lakeside, Nottingham.

Quite a few people have asked why I love the theatre so much and I start to enthuse that the theatre is a magical place that can take you places that you can only imagine. 

This is the case with "Neverland". From the very start to the end the magic is there and is all around you. from disappearing apples to the magical theatrical technology which takes you from a magical island with mermaids to the deck of Captain Hook's ship. It's like being a kid again and you are drawn into a wonderful world of make believe, or maybe it isn't!

There's a new and modern twist to the story which starts with Wendy going down to London to visit her dad, who is separated from Wendy's mother, his wife. he works in a care home looking after wayward kids and, on the day that he should be looking after Wendy, one of the kids breaks out, robs a shop and escapes. well you can guess who that character might be in the story!

The story remains true to the original Barrie classic but brings it up to date to relate to a modern audience, but while modernising the story it also manages to keep the original magic that millions have people have fell in love with.

Peter is played by Andrew Linnie as a hoodie wearing "bad boy" who is responsible for Wendy disobeying her father and being led astray, but only for a short while. He's instantly likeable with his cheekiness, just right for Peter Pan's character. Now as this is a musical you have to have someone who can not only act but sing, well it does help, and Andrew keeps his lovely Irish twang in with the songs. I don't know if it's because Andrew is Irish that he makes this fairy story even more believable.

Wendy, the initially naive daughter of Mr darling, is played by Bethan Nash. Another new name to me but, again, instantly likeable and has a good strong voice on her as well, especially in the musical numbers.

Mr Darling and Captain Hook are played by Robin Simpson. It's description of Mr Darling as grumpy, for me, couldn't have been farther away from the truth with Robin's portrayal, because he made the father figure fun and in touch with his younger self; quite unlike other portrayals seen in the past, and I think this works well as an updated version.

His Captain Hook was also fun and not as scary as I've seen some panto-esque versions of the baddie and Peter Pan rival. He gave enough kudos to the part to make him on the evil side but also gave him a more comical side that wouldn't frighten the younger members of the audience. It's a fine line sometimes and I thing Robin's version was done really well.

The musical pieces were all original, and there's plenty of catchy tunes here as well, which I was quite surprised with. Written and composed by Julian Butler, I loved the song about being a kid and not growing up, sung by Mr Darling and Wendy near the start. But all the songs were good anyway.

The technical effects in the theatre nowadays really push the boundaries and combined with the wonderful lighting, Richard Statham was a wizard as the lighting designer with Barrett Hodgson in charge of the magical digital design.

The set was simple but with the technical work on show, that's all it needed to be because the transformations were created through technical know how of Mr Statham.

Directed by Martin Berry who is renowned for his brilliance in every thing he touches, and this is no different. You almost forget you're in a theatre because , through the clever direction of the work, you are swept up and took on the journey, and then returned to your seat, all in one piece. At just under an hour in total, this is just one of the most magical pieces of theatre around at the moment. Just long enough to keep the little kids attention, as well as the bigger kids like me spellbound.

"Neverland " is on at the Djanogly Theatre at Lakeside on the Nottingham University campus until 31 December 2015. Take your kids and grand-kids, and granddads and grandmas along to see this as a special Christmas treat.

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