‘Peter Pan’ was daring.
JM Barrie’s classic tale of Neverland, swashbuckling pirates and a boy who never grew up, flew into Beenleigh Theatre Group and took flight. You might think you’ve seen all the peter pan adaptations you can stomach, but think again, because Beenleigh Theatre Group has cooked up something truly magical.
This show breathes new life into Peter Pan. Each mythical clique of Neverland was given its own distinct design scheme which perfectly complemented the themes that they represented in the show. The Darling Parents, played by Della Days and David Murdoch were dressed in stuffy, upper-middle-class clothing which represented their repression and added to the tragic loss of their children.
Trading cheesy wires for skateboards when the children ‘fly’ was an incredibly smart decision that fit the street-wise, urban vibes of the Lost Boys. This aesthetic was complemented by graffiti art by James Smalls, which covered their hideout.
There were two standout moments of lighting and design, by Technical Designer Donovan Wagner. Serendipity occurred when Peter and Wendie visited the sea menagerie of mermaid’s cove and in the opening sequence when Peter’s shadow peeked into the window of the Darling house.
The puppetry of the show was an ingenious touch by Puppet Designer Daniel Dosek. The rag-tag Tinkerbell, puppeteered by Edwina Vassallo managed to tug at the heartstrings of the audience, and the Crocodile, puppeteered by Jack Winrow was slinky and the ultimate match to the fearsome Hook.
Ethan Hill as Wendie and Derito Da Costa as Peter Pan barely left the stage the whole show; we didn’t want them to. Da Costa has a fabulously captivating stage presence and portrayed Pan with incredible emotional complexities, and Hill, grounded and genuine, perfectly brought to life the gender-swapped vision of Wendie and gave a profoundly important performance.
The Lost Boys were a joy. Nick Hargreaves, as Slightly, stood out as the hilarious misfit and overjoyed the audience when he broke out a piano accordion at the end of the show. The Darling Siblings, played by Alyssa Burnett and Bailey Ryan gave Wendie something to fight for and are two uniquely talented performers who brought their characters to true life.
Giving opportunities to these young performers to play complicated characters was a gamble that paid off in this show. They carried the show through bold action sequences and hilarious dialogue with deeply touching messages.
The Pirates, a gang of steam-punk ship crew members, roused by Harrison Port and Peter Manias’s sea shanty numbers worked as a fearsome and slightly blundering ensemble.Similarly, villainous Captain Hook, played by Daniel Dosek and his buffoonish sidekick, Smee, played by Peter White, were perfectly camp and delivered exactly what audiences have come to expect from characters like these two. Dosek balanced villainy with a genuine motivation behind his misdeeds.
It gave room for the tragedy of Peter Pan to breathe and was not afraid to delve into some of the deeper themes existent in JM Barrie’s original. Queerness existed in the original story, but director Bradley Chapman was able to amplify them to the perfect degree. The adaptation was nuanced, portraying the rocky paternal relationship and the struggle to self-acceptance that so many LGBTQ+ people experience.
Chapman has seamlessly blended existing and adapted queer themes into this classic story, and it absolutely delivered. Between the design elements and performances, ’Peter Pan’ had a clear vision that was executed brilliantly. This is one fairytale adaptation that feels necessary and steeps itself in equal parts fantasy and stark reality.
In the words of JM Barrie himself, this show was an awfully big adventure.
‘Peter Pan’ ran until 9th April at Crete Street Theatre. More information can be found on the Beenleigh Theatre Group’s website.