Chichester area youngsters gather for Peter Pan

Dale Rooks. Photo Johan Persson

Dale Rooks. Photo Johan Persson

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Peter Pan will offer the perfect celebration of childhood at Chichester Festival Theatre this Christmas.

Chichester Festival Youth Theatre will once again be taking centre stage this December with a classic tale, this year scooping us up on a trip to Neverland (December 17-31)

Director Dale Rooks will once again be in charge, adding another show to her impressive list of festive credits on the main-house stage: “This was decided early last year, and it was slightly the decision of (former CFT artistic and executive directors) Jonathan Church and Alan Finch (who stood down at the end of September). They felt that it was a good show for us to repeat. We actually did it in 2006, and it is true. It is one of the best-loved stories for all ages, a terrific adventure with a lot of wonderful characters and themes. It is also brilliant for large casting. It has got so many ensemble characters and some great main characters, but really the main thing is that it just feels right to be putting on a story at this time of year that celebrates childhood. It really does – and we all never want to grow up, do we!

“And it is a story which is timeless, which allows us to set it all in a little bit of a more contemporary way. In terms of the costume design and everything, we didn’t really want to be restricted by having to go into the Edwardian world. We wanted our young people to explore the games that they might be playing that are more contemporary. Costume-wise it is going to be more around the time of the 80s.

“We are talking about texturing and layering. We have got a fantastic costume designer Ryan Laight who will be looking back at his own childhood!

“We did Peter Pan in 2006, and it was my first conversation with Jonathan Church, talking about what we were going to do for Christmas that year. I wanted to do this, and there was a worry about how we were going to conquer the flight scenes, but I said we would find a way! We are repeating it now, but it will definitely be different.”

For a start, it will be a completely-different bunch of young actors, and while it will be exactly the same script, only Dale survives of the creative team from ten years ago.

So what’s our best approach as an audience? Do we try to work out the dark psychology underlying it all or do we simply sit back and enjoy a slightly-bonkers tale?

Dale definitely reckons the latter: “We know that it is based on J M Barrie’s life which was considered to be magical in some ways and that there were some dark elements, some sadness, some tragic aspects, but I think we just enjoy a really great story!

“And what is interesting this time is that I have really noticed the deliciousness of the stage directions. There are so many of them. I have looked at how we might explore them as part of the narrative. They are too good to be missed, and I missed them last time. Last time I observed them, but I didn’t really think of using them as part of the narrative.”

Have you checked out our new Christmas section yet?

It's packed with ideas and tips to ensure you make the most out of the festive season.

There's recipes, suggestions for presents and everything from choosing your tree to recycling your packaging and paper.

Go to www.chichester.co.uk/christmas/