Review: J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan at The Dukes theatre, Lancaster
Take a classic story of love and hope, a smidgeon of fairy dust, a sprinkling of magic and physical theatrics to make you laugh - and you have Peter Pan.
It's a little slice of Christmas joy on the stage at the always creative Dukes Theatre.
J.M. Barrie's never-ageing story has been re-imagined by artistic director and writer Sarah Punshon into this little gem of a production, which utilises every skill in the hard-working actors' repertoire to gather the audience into the fantasy world.
This is at base a moralistic story of love, loss and life and here it is transformed into the swash-buckling, magical, musical, fairytale dream-land of Peter Pan.
Gender assumptions are thrown aside (Barrie has always intended Peter to be played as a woman) and costume changes skilfully adapted by the five-strong cast who morph from character to character, moving sets and props, with an ease that allows the seamless suspense of disbelief.
The sparky Helen Longworth stars as mum, Captain Hook, Floss and a Fairy which in itself gives you a clue to the ingenuity of this production and how hard each actor works.
It seems a bit unfair Hook gets swallowed by a crocodile after all that swash-buckling... (spoiler)
Told in the round, the audience are practically right in the story, sparking at times possibly more participation than the cast had bargained for as young children in the audience happily join in, caught right up in the action, offering suggestions and booing the baddies.
The audience laughed as much at a vocal small girl in the front row as the cast themselves, adding a layer of complicit magic to the auditorium, as adults smile at her utterly involved enthusiasm.
Jason Patel shines as the fizzing, sometimes moody and always childish, Tinker Bell, in his professional debut as you see the story from his perspective.
Meanwhile, Gareth Morgan takes the audience with him as the slightly arrogant Peter, his devil-may-care but need a hug attitude resonant with adults who have teenagers.
He excels in the physical theatre, flying from the upper tier, leaping across the stage and morphing into a Fairy and Pirate Tilly.
Henry Mettle as Jack, Smee, Extra and Fairy steals a lot of the most comedic lines whole Dora Rubinstein as Wendy (and Starkey and Fairy) gets to show off her acrobatic skills alongside her acting and singing as she flies from her bedroom to Never Never Land.
A fabulous production, propelling every adult and child into a land of imagination that will make you smile this Christmas.
Peter Pan runs from November 23 until January 5.
To book tickets, ring The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or visit www.dukes-lancaster.org