Peter gives Wendy a house at Canal Walk
By Jaco du Plessis
Ask every young boy what superpower he desires and the answer you will most likely get, is to fly! We all know of a young boy who can do just that, Peter Pan. This classic, originally created by author J.M. Barrie in 1904, gets a revival from Fred Abrahamse and Marcel Meyer, just in time for the winter holidays.
I love classic theatre stories, characters that I grew up with and the magic that originates from places like Neverland. Getting to see Peter Pan was even more magical this time round, as the theatre was located inside the Canal Walk Shopping Centre, which transformed their Centre Court into Wonderland for the holidays. It is like our own fantasy world, where we can be transported to an enchanted place, where anything is possible.
After getting used to the hustle of the mall activities, the blue glow of a quiet Neverland sets the scene for the opening sequence. The stage is strangely flat, with a universe of stars painted across a canvas. Like Neverland though, things are never quite as they seem… The beautifully designed grandiose set and costumes, paired with the direction by Abrahmse and Meyer makes for a show that is a treat for not only the younger generation, but also those whom are young at heart.
The Darling children, played by Jenny Stead as Wendy, Kyle Jardine as John Darling, and Luke Tyler in the role of Michael Darling, are introduced in their home, just as their parents are about to leave for the Opera. We get our first peek of Peter, albeit his shadow, as Ms. Darling manages to trap him inside a toy trunk. Also featuring, are the talents of Bianca Flanders as the Princess Tiger-Lily, Roberto Kyle as Panther, Stuart Brown and Roland Perold as the Lost Boys.
Peter Pan, played by the dashing Grant Almirall, is no stranger to the South African stage, with credits to his name like Singin’ in the Rain and an award winning stint as Frankie Vallie in the hit, Jersey Boys. Pan makes his first grand entrance onto the stage flying into the room, accompanied by the energetic Tinkerbelle, danced by newcomer Raine Waring who, happens to be a ballerina in this adaption. This magic all around, cared for smiles on all the faces around me.
As the story goes, Peter convinces Wendy and her brothers to join him in Neverland, to entertain the boys with his stories and fulfilling Wendy’s wish to be their mother. Whisked away to Neverland we get to meet the other lost boys, the beautiful Princess Tiger-Lily and her sidekick Panther. The introductions turn to song and the whole cast is as cheerful as they can be. The scene then changes as we finally see the stage come to life with the center section opening up to reveal the Jolly Roger, its evil Captain Hook, played by Marcel Meyer and the always on-hand first mate Smee, played by Dean Balie. This brilliant use of the set almost frames Captain Hook’s mad schemes in such a way, it sets them apart from the rest of cheerful Neverland.
Here we get a short version of what happened to Hook and why he now has a hook for a hand. This part of the story wouldn’t be the same without encapsulate the threats of the crocodile that fed on Hook’s hand. This production of Peter Pan, doesn’t disappoint to produce this somewhat cuddly, yet ferocious beast.
The modern telling of this classic tail does not fail to enthrall the viewers and none more so, than the flying antics displayed by Peter Pan. Pity that the rest of the lost boys and the Darling children don’t get to share in this wonderful experience. Looking up at Almirall performing Pan’s aerial acrobatics to gymnastic perfection, makes the audience anticipate Tinkerbelle to sprinkle her magic dust upon them, to enable them to fly. The story engages the audience in ways that makes you feel as though you are part of the show in more ways than just being a casual viewer; you get to clap and make Tinkerbelle come to life, after she drinks the poison that was meant for Peter – I do believe in fairies, I do, I do!
Peter Pan runs from 1 July – 23 July. Tickets, priced at R80, may be acquired from the Centre Court Ticket box or Computicket. Unreserved seating necessitates those with young children to ensure seats are taken up early at the venue, so the little ones can get an unrestricted view of the stage. They don’t want to miss one second of this exciting story.