The beloved story of Peter Pan that we all know and love has been reinvented for a modern audience at Birmingham Rep this Christmas.
Director Liam Steel alongside co-adapter Georgia Christou have adapted the story to feel relevant and resonate with audiences of Birmingham. Set in a high-rise flat in Birmingham, the story is told through Wendy’s eyes, as she learns how to be a child again.
Wendy and her brothers live with their foster mother Jess in central Birmingham. Wendy struggles to see eye-to-eye with Jess as she feels responsible for her younger brothers. She doesn’t trust her foster mother and puts pressure on herself to look after Michael and John. When Wendy meets Peter Pan, he whisks them off to Neverland and she learns to find the joy in being a child again.
Wendy, played by Cora Tsang, is a feisty feminist youngster that speaks her mind. Tsang has superb stage presence as the young Wendy and her natural characterisation has the audience rooting for her. Lawrence Walker plays the cheeky Peter Pan whose playful attitude lures Wendy into his world. Causing mischief, Walker is charming as Peter Pan.
Stealing the show is Nia Gwynne who plays both foster mother Jess and Captain Hook. Wendy is constantly battling against Jess so when she arrives in Neverland, she envisions Captain Hook as her foster mother. Gwynne has sincerity and heart as Jess as she tries desperately to look after the youngsters. But when she transforms into Hook, she plays the menacing role with a subtle sense of evil that slowly builds to create a truly terrifying character.
This production is visually stunning as the estate the Darlings live on is the backdrop to the story. Within that, we are transported to Peter’s hideout, Hook’s ship and many mystical places in Neverland. Michael Pavelka’s design is incredibly clever and his use of recycled plastics to create the set is not only important but it creates a contemporary aesthetic.
The set design mirrors Laura Jane Stanfield’s costume design. The jazzy and creative costumes are grungy yet extravagant. Stubborn Tinkerbell is played by Mirabelle Gremaud whose blonde cropped hair and metallic sparkly trainers looks as if she stepped out of a festival. Everything about this production is re-imagined, which epitomises Birmingham Rep’s revolutionary artistic vision.
Some of the scenes needs sharpening by tightening up the transitions, but it’s a production that oozes theatrical flair. Despite a few dodgy accents, the cast bring electric energy to the show. With a punchy soundtrack infusing the piece with every style from punk to ballad, house and especially Peter Pan’s powerful rap ‘Let’s Build Wendy a House’ that will be stuck in your head for days, they certainly push boundaries with this Christmas show.
The touching final scene brings the whole story together and emphasises the importance of connection, relationships and finding your inner child this festive season.
Peter Pan is on at the Birmingham Rep until the 19th of January. Tickets can be found on their website.
Photo credit // Johan Persson