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By Matt Thomson-Ryder
Once in a while a play hits the Oxford drama scene which is so manifestly awful, so bowel-shiveringly dreadful, that the audience would suppress vomiting were they not already laughing so hard at the hideousness of the whole production.
In this holocaust of theatre, based on a bloated, bathetic, leaden script and given either the most uninspired direction or the most flamboyant over interpretation that the Gods themselves would be moved to rage, the actors would be ugly, lumpy, unexpressive, out of tune if singing and moronic in speech and movement.
Such a play offends the eyes, ears, nose and loins. Such a play would have the review titles of ‘Pan Blocker’ or ‘Second star to the Shite and straight on ‘til morning’ or perhaps ‘Tinker Stinker Peters Out’.
Then there’s Peter Pan, which is excellent. In the most imaginative interpretation of a script I’ve seen since Mr G’s Bubblewrap (look it up). The play is staged in Worcester’s JCR (it was also nice to have the existence of this college proven to me), with the audience on beanbags, cushions and, more prosaically, chairs, semi-in-the-round, with the cast acting up and down the aisle and in the main performance space.
The set is sofas, boxes, cushions, blankets – a children’s nursery – and all the action is interpreted as taking place in this make-believe world. The pirate ship, for example, is a cardboard prow on a sofa, and the flying is the cast standing on the sofa behind a frantically waving sheet. and it works. The actors act like children, which could horrendously backfire, but it really doesn’t. In fact, seeing them from a distance in their PJs and onesies, I asked the director where he got the kids from. “What kids?”
The actors are, bizarrely for any play, uniformly good, although especial credit goes to Mr Darling/Hook, played just beneath the flamboyance ceiling by Will Mendelowitz, Wendy as played by Eidin Crowdy (it’s all right, boys, she’s at least twenty, although she is playing a child) and Azmina Siddique, who has a difficult role to make un-annoying and plays it with aplomb.
Overall, and this coming from someone waiting desperately to give a negative review, this production is astounding, anarchic and really, really funny. I had a tear in my eye, but that’s because it made me laugh so much that I was coughing like a TB patient. Also, it’s raising money for a kids’ hospital, so if you don’t go you’re a disgrace.