Peter Pan, New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth, until December 31
There’s something immediately and refreshingly different about director and adaptor Scott Ramsay’s Peter Pan in Portsmouth. Instead of the usual lengthy preamble, we are straightaway in Neverland, meeting Hook before we ever get near Wendy – and the show is all the stronger for it.
Just when we are thinking we know exactly what’s going to happen in the couple of hours ahead, Ramsay rings the changes.
Of course, we get the Peter Pan story, but rather like Eric Morecambe’s Grieg, it’s all the right notes, not necessarily in the right order. Plus quite a few more.
And that’s a great strength.
To have delivered Peter Pan slavishly would have felt rather less of an awfully big adventure.
And the cast certainly respond – particularly Timothy Lucas as Hook who gives comfortably the night’s stand-out performance, commanding the stage with his superbad villain… the perfect foil for his Mr Darling on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
Alongside him, Hannah McIver is an excellent Wendy. Hers is a truly beautiful voice. Samuel Bailey is suitably spirited as Peter in a part which is maybe just a touch underwritten amongst all else that is going on around him.
On the downside, while it’s great not to be hit with all the latest pop hits, one or two of the songs are just a little nondescript, and the first half meanders just a little. It needs to lose a good ten to 15 minutes to be sure of its sense of direction. The Neptune first-half finale could comfortably be lost.
But the show comes into its own in the second half – all of it happening against the most beautiful sets. The little music-hall diversion towards the end is rather odd, but the show’s final flourish is a cracker.
Last year’s Christmas show at the New Theatre Royal seemed a little unsure of its identity, lapsing into panto while trying not to be one. This year, the offering is much more sure of itself – and all the better for it.
There are a few passages which just seem a little flat; but director Ramsay will surely locate them and give them just a little more oomph. Mics that slightly come and go will also need to be addressed. But all in all, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable evening in a really beautiful venue, a venue reclaiming its place strongly on the Portsmouth scene after its closure for refurbishment a few years ago.