Underneath A Magical Moon is a new version of the Peter Pan story, told from Wendy’s perspective and written by Theatre Royal favourite Mike Kenny for children aged 3+ and their families.
York Theatre Royal
Till Sat Oct 22
From the rehearsal trailer, the production looked enormous fun, with impressive movement direction and featuring actor musicians. My co-reviewer for the evening was Sylvie (aged six) who “couldn’t wait for the mermaids”.
As with other Theatre Royal children’s shows we’ve seen, the fourth wall is dispensed with, and we walk to our seats through the set while actors mingle in a laid back fashion, chatting, joking and generally putting the young audience at their ease. It’s a lovely way of making theatre more familiar and accessible.
The show’s framing device is a back yard sleep out, with three children (Wendy, John and Michael) telling and acting out stories of Neverland using everyday items as props, scenery and costumes.
Engaging and energetic
It was rather a slow start, with a gentle song and a lot of setbuilding, but the cast of three are engaging and energetic as the children and once the story reaches the familiar territory of the book, the excitement levels rise.
A sequence using clarinets to bring Peter’s shadow to life was particularly inventive, and the fight sequences were a perfect mixture of swashbuckle and slow motion that Sylvie and I found hilarious.
Sylvie was not so impressed with the mermaids, with costumes made of shower caps and sleeping bags, and played as mean girls on the school bus. She giggled uncontrollably however, at the sequence wherein the three children played ‘families’.
Throughout, the mix of fantasy and familiar elements was well paced. The portrayal of Tinkerbell as a perpetually moving green light (voiced by Yasmin Sannuga) was delightful.
The show was lifted to another level by the musical talents of the cast, who between them play accordion, ukulele, clarinet, mandolin and saxophone. Grace Lancaster as Wendy has a beautiful singing voice, and Jack Brett (Peter Pan) must be a trained dancer – he is superbly cast.
Along with the comic talents of Chris Draper (Captain Hook) it’s a strong ensemble, supported by an eccentric and versatile set by TopShow, design by Kate Bunce and exceptionally strong movement direction by Holly Irving.
I felt that the costumes and scenery could have been a little more magical, a little more colourful, given the age of the target audience but that is a minor quibble. Although sometimes veering towards a little too ‘meta’ for small children, the production is intelligent and thoughtful throughout.
It may not be Peter Pan as we know it, but it is a charming, innovative and energetic piece of dramatic storytelling which will engage and entertain audiences of all ages.