There has been much re-imagining of classic texts of late, notably fresh takes on Charlotte Bronte’s Villette and John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi at West Yorkshire Playhouse. Now Leeds-based children’s theatre company tutti frutti offers a new version of the Peter Pan story as told by Mike Kenny.
His adaptation of The Railway Children gave co-producers York Theatre Royal – where Underneath a Magical Moon premieres – one of its biggest successes. Now his Peter Pan proves a glorious, riotous and sunny hour’s entertainment aided greatly by Wendy Harris’s inventive direction, a versatile cast (take a bow Grace Lancaster, Jack Brett and Chris Draper), Kate Bunce’s adaptable setting and composer Ivan Stott’s jolly songs.
The young audience sat entranced as Wendy took charge (“It’s my house, I make the rules”) and told the tale of the boy who wouldn’t grow up. All the elements of the Peter Pan story are present and correct – flying, Captain Hook, pirates, the ‘clockodile’ (the hand-munching crocodile who’s swallowed a clock), Tinkerbell and scene-stealing mermaids who have the best song of the show.
As you’d expect from Kenny, serious issues touching on children’s lives are part of the story without big flashing signs announcing their presence. Naughty Tinkerbell is cast as a ‘mean girl’, the bully who sits at the back of the school bus doing her nails, while the role of mothers and the importance of family are touched on too. Underneath a Magical Moon is, well, magical.
One of the ways tutti frutti invites feedback is to send in a drawing – pass me the crayons so I can draw a picture of a happy smiling critic.
To October 22 then touring.
Steve Pratt - 4/5
The Season Ticket -York Theatre Royal
Jonathan Tulloch’s novel about two teenage boys from Gateshead and the adventures their love of Newcastle United drives them to has already been filmed as Purely Belter. Now Lee Mattinson’s play of the book arrives at York Theatre Royal in a Northern Stage and Pilot Theatre production.
Despite the duo’s quest to raise enough money to buy two season tickets to see their beloved team, this isn’t a play about football but two underprivileged kids finding their feet in life despite everything bad that life throws at them.
There’s plenty of humour to be mined from the situation but the dark side is never far away whether it’s a violent absent father or ridiculous authority figures like a headmaster or store security guard.
Director Katie Posner’s rowdy, raucous production could do with trimming and Yorkshire audiences may need subtitles to help them acclimatise to the north-east accents, but she achieves her intention to make the audience laugh and cry at a play she describes as “bursting with heart”. There is fine work from all the cast particularly from the two young and talented leading actors – Niek Versteeg as the more philosophical Gerry and Will Graham as best mate Sewell. Stand out too is Victoria Elliott’s mother Dee who thankfully doesn’t veer into caricature while Joe Caffrey’s father is truly terrifying.
To October 15.
Steve Pratt - 4/5