Friday, 5 December 2014

PREVIEW Peter Pan, Polka Theatre

THERE can't be many children who don't know the story of Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up.
The classic story, written by JM Barrie, was originally done as a play before it was turned into a book. Since then it has been adapted many times and translated onto the silver screen as well as for a variety of stage productions including pantomimes.
A stage version is now being brought to life for youngsters at the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon.
And according to artistic director Peter Glanville, it features original songs, puppetry, swashbuckling fun and lots of fairy dust.
"We are always looking for a big classic story to produce around the Christmas period," he says. "I have always loved Peter Pan - it's one of the greatest stories ever told.
"On the one hand it's an incredibly imaginative story, full of pirates, fairies and children that can fly but at its heart there are these incredibly powerful relationships.
"There is an interesting relationship between Peter and Wendy and how that pans out plus we have the bitter rivalry between the pirates and the lost boys.
"They are iconic characters and there is huge potential for spectacle.
"Crucially it also draws us in emotionally so it had all the ingredients for the creation of an exciting show."
In developing the production, which Peter says has taken almost a year to do, there were a few challenges to overcome not least how to make some of the characters fly.
"We could have blown our budget on a massive flying rig but the stage isn't big enough," he says.
"I have a real passion for puppetry and I started to get ideas of how some of the characters could be represented through puppets.
"As a fairy Tinkerbell in particular seemed an appropriate choice, and I thought the snake could be one too, so I got an extraordinary puppet maker in who has created some amazing puppets for us.
"It means we now have amazing flying scenes in the show - it's fantastic."
As well as the challenge of staging the piece, Peter was also keen to update some of the messages within the original story.
"It is slightly dated so I have set it in the 1960s which was a time of change where people were questioning the role of women and bringing the whole idea of being young to the forefront.
"There is also a bit of a Mod look to Hook which has been fun to do and there's even a bit of jive dancing!"
What there won't be is any audience participation except for one crucial scene.
"It's been created very much as a piece of theatre and is certainly not a panto," says Peter.
"However there is a tender scene in the story where Tinkerbell drinks poison Hook has left for her and we see her light fade away.
"It is the only part of the show the actors talk directly to the audience and ask for help to make Tinkerbell better."
And he says he hopes the whole show will grip the young audiences.
"Our challenge is always how we can make the experience as rich as possible for our audience whatever their age - emotionally and intellectually," he says.
"This show is funny, sad, exciting and quite dark in places so hopefully it will stimulate their imaginations and get them asking questions about why the characters act the way they do - why is Hook feeling a sense of anger and why does Peter Pan refuse to grow up.
"It's been incredibly exciting to create."

Peter Pan is on at the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon until Saturday, February 14. Tickets cost from £17.50. Visit or call the box office on 020 8543 4888.

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