Young audiences will need to be very familiar with the Peter Pan story in order to follow what’s happening in Neverland and make the necessary shifts of the brain. Julian Butler transposes the story to a room “on the other side of London”, where 13-year-old Wendy is visiting her estranged and disordered dad, who runs the neighbouring home for children in care.
There are magical elements to the production, notably the sublime video and digital projections against which Wendy and Peter appear to fly and which swirl and transform to create the mean urban streets or the mermaids’ lagoon. Imagination is called into play as teddy bears are enlisted to become the Lost Boys and there are strong, clear spoken and musical performances, especially from Bethan Nash as Wendy.
But the juxtaposition of Mr Darling and Captain Hook is sometimes troubling. When a villain is clearly costumed as a villain, children know the score and can enjoy being frightened. Hook is Hook when he’s in flowing wig and swashbuckling mode. There’s not enough clear differentiation here between the irascible dad of the present and the murderous pirate of the story, and that makes certain scenarios rather uneasy to watch.