With so much streaming and screened theatre going on, finding quality can feel a challenge. As a result, your housebound reviewer was delighted by the prospect of writing about a Chickenshed production: even one from their back catalogue would, I figured, be a safe bet for a strong night’s entertainment. My hunch was spot on.
This Peter Pan, from Christmas 2014, benefits from being close to JM Barrie’s source material. It’s meticulously in-period, the Edwardian trimmings all present and correct, for which set designer Keith Dunne and costume designer Graham Hollick deserve a nod. This ambiance is also helped a great deal by Andrew Caddies‘ lighting design. Lighting frankly doesn’t get enough credit in screened shows, but it definitely creates a lovely atmosphere here.
It is a full-scale musical and, while it’s possibly lacking sure-fire show-stopping hits, the original music and songs by Dave Carey and Jo Collins bubble along nicely. The vocals reflect Chickenshed’s principles of accessibility. This means shiny, triple-threat musical theatre polish is occasionally swapped for enthusiastic charm and inclusivity. All the better for it though, I say. It’s worth noting continual, fully integrated BSL signing throughout is superb too.
Sebastian Gonzalez is always entirely watchable in the title role. He avoids androgynous pantomime choices to bring a bit of grit to the infamous boy on the verge of manhood. He seems to calmly stride across the night sky on arrival, ten feet above the stage, rather than flitting and flapping: it all comes easy to this hero. Every hero needs an anti-hero. Acting honours go to Joseph Morton for the dual role as irascible father Mr Darling and downright bad ‘un Captain Hook. His fights with Gonzalez are one of the highlights of the show. All the other performances are strong. Even, and I hesitate as I know I’m implying children are normally bad on stage, but ‘even’ the kids convince this time.
The recognition that people, especially young people, from all social and economic backgrounds, cultures and abilities can come together to create something as good as Peter Pan says everything you need to know about Chickenshed’s ethos. If you open up opportunities to perform, magic will happen. It’s a truth that this remarkable organisation proves time after time, and Peter Pan is no exception.
My tip? Snuggle up with your favourite sofa mate (in this reviewer’s case, a glass of red), put this on your big screen at home and enjoy. It will make you miss theatre, of course, but also remind you of its joys.
Creative Directors: Dave Carey, Jonathan Morton, Christine Niering and Louise Perry
Musical Director: Dave Carey
Choreography by: Christine Niering with Robin Shillinglaw and Dina Williams
Sign Language Director: Charlotte Moulton-Thomas
Peter Pan is available for free from Chickenshed. Full details can be found on their website below.