There are times when you approach a theatre production with a critical eye and an unforgiving pen, those times when you are judging a show against the whole of theatrical history. There are other times when you have to remember that life doesn’t always have to be that serious, abandon that critical viewpoint, chill out and go with the flow and tonight’s production of Peter Pan by The Estelle School of Dance is very much one of those nights. Piers Chater-Robinson’s large and lavish production of song and dance by performers of all ages and all abilities is more about a showcase of emerging talent and a time for even wandering scribes such as myself to adopt an attitude somewhere between proud parent and child like wonder.
J.M. Barrie’s most famous work is perhaps the perfect production for such a night, a fantasy written for and here performed, predominately, by children. Obviously for such a dance school production the play has been adapted to contain a number of large scale chorus lines comprising everything from graceful ballet and sparky tap numbers right down to the fun of watching the youngest of the troupe; wide eyed and enthusiastic stars of the future getting their first stage experience.
Because of this the storyline is only loosely based on the original, but those underwater dreamscapes, roving pirate gangs, Indian camps and below stairs help fit in perfectly with its surreal, fairy tale nature. And obviously you can’t have Peter Pan without a certain amount of flying.
If I had one gripe it came from the orchestra pit where the drums seemed often to drown out some of the younger, gentler voices, I understand that they have a duty to drive the bigger musical numbers on towards their crescendo but when a 13 year old performer is trying to be heard above what sounded like Ginger Baker wrapping up an encore at The Albert Hall then maybe it is something to be taken on board.
That said for an amateur production with such a large cast it was a triumph. Pan soared, Hook roared in that perfect and over the top Tim Curry-esque fashion, aided and abetted by a suitably bumbling Smee and a slightly camp first mate, and the Darling children lived up to their name. The major themes of the conflict of innocence against the responsibility of adulthood still under pin the story but as I said at the outset, this was not a night for such deep examinations. This was a night for fun and flying, song and swordfights, dance and danger and once you manage to get into the right mind set, cheer for the Lost Boys, boo the pirates and start believing in fairies, they will even have you thinking that you too can fly.