Peter Pan has been a staple of children's Christmas entertainment since it was first staged in 1904. This year there are two versions on offer in London.
The story of the Edwardian children of Mr. and Mrs. Darling, whose nursery is visited by Peter Pan — the boy who won't grow up , and lives in Never Land with the Lost Boys — has always had a broad appeal, and the magical element of Peter flying with the Darling children through the night skies is always a highly theatrical scene.
Tinkerbell the fairy provides an opportunity for special effects (as in the National Theatre's production a few years ago) while also provoking a low-tech but enthusiastic reaction when the audience is asked to applaud if they believe in fairies.
Captain Hook is often portrayed as a humorous character but — as originally played by Sir Gerald Du Maurier — can also be a genuinely frightening figure. Other elements — like a crocodile that has swallowed a clock and is in hot pursuit of Hook, together with the marauding pirates and Red Indians, add an exotic touch that contrasts nicely with the cozy London setting of the Darling family home. At the Royal Festival Hall there is Peter Pan — A Musical Adventure. This musical, starring Richard Wilson as Captain Hook, is by George Stiles (music) and Anthony Drewe (lyrics).
Stiles and Drew created the hugely successful Honk! at the National Theatre — a reworking, with music, of the classic ugly duckling story. This musical take on Peter Pan has a book by Willis Hall.
Richard Wilson, is a popular performer (he was the first of the many celebrity guests to appear last year at Wyndham's in The Play What I Wrote, and starred in a revival of Joe Orton's What The Butler Saw at the National) and will be playing one of the most enjoyable villains in British theatre: the Old Etonian Captain Hook.
Meanwhile, at Richmond Theatre — one of the most attractive of the outer London playhouses — Robert Powell will be giving his version of the dastardly Captain, with Bonnie Langford playing Peter — having a girl play Peter is another theatrical tradition that dates back to Edwardian times.
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow