Troubadour White City Theatre (venue)
27 July 2019 (released)
31 July 2019
It’s a great sign of the boom in British theatre that two new theatres have opened up in West London: Troubadour, Wembley Park and Troubadour, White City. With an audience capacity of 1200, the Troubadour, White City is like a vast urban Warehouse with the ubiquitous exposed structures and dangling vintage light bulbs in the foyer. Built in just twelve weeks, on the old BBC car park, the huge auditorium opens it’s wings with Sally Cookson’s production of Peter Pan a rich and ambitious piece of theatre that raises the bar for ‘family entertainment’.
Previously staged at the National via the Bristol Old Vic, it’s a faithful re-telling of JM Barry’s story of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up and the Darling children who fly out of their nursery to meet the Lost Boys in Never Never Land. If one were to criticise, there is so much going on with a live band, song, dance and aerial acrobatics as well as intimate scenes of real emotional heft, that it sometimes loses forward momentum. The first half, running at nearly an hour and a half seemed to meander a bit. Impressively the children in the audience kept very quiet but the adults were starting to shuffle.
For those used to the popular pop-up versions for young children, this will come as a complex and dark version of the classic. Captain Hook is a disturbed, silver toothed oppressor, played by Kelly Price, who also plays Mrs Darling and seems to represent the ‘bad mother’ that did not keep the window open for Peter. John Pfumojena’s Peter Pan starts irristibly cheeky with a beautifully choreographed dance with his ‘shadow’ but grows in desperation until an emotional climax where he wails for his lost mother whilst Wendy and Hook the two mother figures call out his name in one of the many original songs by Benji Bower. The Lost Boys in a contemporary Never Never Land that looks like an abandoned youth hostel cannot help but remind you of children lost in our care system.
If this all sounds very serious, it is for those who are interested in that aspect of Barry’s extraordinary work, but it is also packed with magical soundscapes, flying children and comedy. Shiv Rabheru plays a wicked babbling Tinkerbell who embodies all the charming malevolence of a toddler. Probably not suitable for very young children, there is plenty of joy and spectacle in a show that will be remembered for a long time by all those children lucky enough to be taken to the theatre.
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