Monday, June 11, 2012


Cut to the Chase at the Queen's Theatre Hornchurch

J M Barrie, creator of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, and originator of the name Wendy, is very present in this stage version, directed by Bob Carlton. His words – the oaths, the archaisms, the obscure and the weird – are faithfully retained, and he is a character too, telling the story to young admirers [as Carroll so often does in adaptations of Alice] and even stealing from Mr Darling the privilege of playing Hook.

I admired this respectful approach, especially as it is combined with a love of magic which conjures the changing scenes from the simplest of resources. For we never leave Kensington Gardens – from the opening picnic – teddy bear, barrel organ, balloon seller - to the closing tableau with Peter immortalised all over again in Frampton's statue.

The solid set – which tends to militate against the resourcefulness and the playful imagination – becomes the nursery, and Neverland, the sea and the ship. In a wonderfully inventive touch, the lamplighter becomes Tinkerbell – Natasha Moore, with a tin whistle, who also plays Tiger Lily.

The prologue cleverly introduces many of the familiar features of the plot – the dog, the crocodile, flying – as the children share the story of Cinderella.

The music – by Steven Markwick, also the MD – uses the Cut to the Chase company well; it is stylistically very varied [I was reminded of Salad Days and Sondheim, amongst others]. The Crocodile Song, Mother Will Be There Too, were catchy; the best production number is the ingenious Building The Wendy House. And the instrumental introduction to Act Two is sheer delight.

Jonathan Markwood is a fruity Old Etonian Hook; Simon Jessop a likeably dim Smee, with his trombone musket, as well as channelling Arthur Askey's pantomime dame for Mrs Moon, balloon seller. Greg Last plays a very believable Michael, the youngest of the Darling children, and Kate Robson-Stuart endures the sexist stereotyping of Wendy, and also manages to play violin for the final showdown. Sam Kodabacheh makes an improbable paterfamilias, but an excellent Slightly.

In the title role: Dylan Kennedy, bringing a sly Irish charm to the boy who wouldn't grow up – he was much liked by the youngsters in the audience, with his bravado and his daring parkour round the masonry.

An interesting move, scheduling a major children's show at the start of summer. The Queen's have come up with an impressive addition to the genre, with music, slapstick, a puppet mermaid, flying by Foys and some tricky swashbuckling in the water feature. And, for those who did grow up, a witty, literate script which never seeks to subvert the original.

Not a pantomime, of course – that'll be here in December. Jack and the Beanstalk this year, and it's booking well already ...
production photograph: Nobby Clark

this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews

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