Going to see a play at The Rep Birmingham has become an important part of the run-up to Christmas for us, and we were so excited to see this year’s play, Peter Pan Reimagined. We are spoilt for choice in Birmingham with so much variety of theatre shows that it can be hard to pick, particularly if you are only budgeting for one show for your family. However, The Rep is top of our list because it always puts on an outstanding show that is always a little different from the norm. I find it refreshing that while it is relevant for this time of year, it isn’t actually about Christmas.
We were invited to the press show of Peter Pan reimagined and treated to super sparkly Peter Pan biscuits. The twins are going with school next week and I wish I could go and see it with them again. They are very excited mainly because Peter Pan is played by the incredibly talented Lawrence Walker from their favourite TV show Find Me in Paris. The rating on the website says 7+ and I definitely think that’s appropriate, this is not your typical jolly pantomime as it has some themes suitable for older children and some scary costumes. If you have older children this will be a wonderful treat the whole family will enjoy.
Pater Pan Reimagined is a modern update of the well-loved classic. It’s set in a heavily graffitied council estate in Birmingham and the modern setting and costumes give this story relevance for audiences today. At the heart of the story, is the touching relationship between Peter and a very modern Wendy. Both have been scarred by their past and have to learn to trust each other. Wendy, played by Cora Tsang is a feisty foster kid, struggling to bond with her foster mother. She is used to being the sole carer for her siblings and until she meets Peter has never allowed herself to have a childhood. Her performance is at once tough and vulnerable. I love the modern updates to her character, she doesn’t know how to sew so instead of a thimble offers Peter an x shaped magnet instead of a kiss.
After an argument with her foster mum, Wendy has a strange encounter with Peter’s shadow. This is really creepy and clever and sets the scene for their trip to the magical world of Neverland. Peter, the boy who never grew up is brash and full of bravado, which hides his vulnerability and fear of abandonment. One of the best moments in any play about Peter Pan is when they all fly and this performance really excels. Instead of a wire, the actors are on bungee cords. They leap and spin across the stage and it really looks like they are flying for real.
Tink played with Mirabelle Gremaud is brilliant, a sparkly silver force of nature. Angry and impulsive she flies across the stage like an acrobatic show causing mayhem wherever she goes. Much of the humour of the show comes from her Minion-esque fairy language.
The set of this play is absolutely incredible. At the start it looks like a real block of flats, it is later transformed into a jungle and a pirate ship. The graffiti and objects in the opening form are transformed in Neverland. It is like they have become a part of Wendy’s fantasy world as she tries to process her new situation and work through her feelings. One beautiful underwater scene has fish and graceful mermaids made from junk and a bird from a washing powder box brought to life with puppetry.
The Lost Children live in a hideout, which is a bunker that appears from out of the floor. One of my favourite scenes was where the children are playing happy families acting out what it is like to be in a normal family. They are so desperate to have parents they even pretend to be told off and given medicine.
Of course, Peter Pan is not complete without a fearsome villain, and Hook is perfect. In this gender-swapping version, Hook played by Nia Gwynne, is also the foster mum. This is in keeping with the first version put on by JM Barrie and helps to draw out the theme of whether mothers can be trusted. She plays with Shakespearean grandeur. The steampunk pirate costume is Laura Jane Stanfield and the costume department at its finest with the golden hook, vast shoulder pads, a boat hairpiece, and those incredible flocked leggings.
The story has a bittersweet ending, as is fitting for a story about the sadness and inevitability of growing up. Peter’s last song is a soulful version of Nature Boy, reminiscent of the version in Moulin Rouge. There is a twist at the end which hints that maybe even Peter can have a happy ending.
Peter Pan really has been reimagined in this version and for me, it will never be the same again.
You can see Peter Pan until 19th January and tickets (from £15) are selling out. Don’t miss it!
Disclaimer: We were given tickets for the purposes of this review.