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Peter Pan review from 1997

As all of you should know by now, the story concerns the children of the Darling family who are visited by Peter Pan, a boy who never grows up, and are taken away to the wonderful fantasy world of Never Never Land. While here they meet Peter's friends, who are also boys who do not grow up. However, the boys are not safe because they are running away from the bad and nasty Captain Hook, who wants revenge on Peter Pan for cutting off his hand in an earlier fight and feeding it to the crocodile. However, Peter Pan is helped by his new friends and a magical fairy called 'Tinkerbell'.

This is a big production from the National Theatre with no expense spared on special effects and stage design, but sadly the production fails to live up to expectation. The sets are wonderful and ingenious, which is what we have come to expect from The National theatre and in particularly John Napier, who designed this set and other famous sets such as "Cats", "Starlight Express", "Les Miserables", "Miss Saigon" and "Sunset Boulevard". However, the production, which lasts 3 hours, is far too long and I think this is its problem. Maybe if the show was a little shorter by about half-an-hour, then the show may have had more pace and momentum. The show was feeling tired and lost half way through, and that is a tragedy for such a great story!

Ian Mckellen as 'Captain Hook' is not the best I've seen (I saw Ron Moody as a brilliant Hook in Peter Pan at the Cambridge Theatre a few years ago.), but he performed adequately. This production has a boy playing Peter Pan, instead of the usual girl, but it did not seem to make the show any better or worse. Daniel Evans who plays 'Peter', puts in a good enough performance and is convincing, which is quite remarkable considering he is actually 26 years old! Claudie Blakley is a weak and unconvincing 'Wendy'. She seemed unable to shine through or to get the audience to warm to her. Alec McCowen puts in a strong and professional performance as 'The Story-teller'. His narrative is clean and clear with a humorous disposition.

I may have been disappointed with the show, but the popular press are full of praise for it! NICHOLAS DE JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD says the show " Ensures enchantment" and described Sir Ian McKellen's performance as "A delight to watch" and goes on to say he is "The funniest, campest Captain Hook imaginable". THE SUNDAY TIMES says, "This is the business" and describes the set as "Superbly intricate". JOHN GROSS of the DAILY TELEGRAPH says "There can be no doubt that the National has an outstanding success on its hands, fully on a par with its celebrated Wind in the Willows." ALASTAIR MACAULAY of THE FINANCIAL TIMES says Alec McCowen's performance is the greatest and says, " Both the fastidious precision and the genial warmth of his manner are perfect here".

As I said, the show is a let down considering the talent of the people behind it, but perhaps I expected too much! This is not the best Peter Pan production I've seen, but the audience seemed to like it and the many children in the audience behaved quite well, so it cannot be that bad!

(Darren Dalglish)

Originally published on

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