The children are sleeping peacefully in the Darling nursery when suddenly Peter Pan flies in the open window. Moments later Tinkerbell arrives and so begins the adventure into Neverland. The West Australian Ballet has brought J.M. Barrie’s timeless classic to life in a re-staging of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Peter Pan.
It is a show that is as much pantomine as dance, with colourful music (Philip Norman), magnificent sets and costumes (Kristian Fredrikson) and evocative lighting (Jon Buswell) combining with Russell Kerr’s character-driven choreography to sweep the audience into a grand adventure.
All the familiar characters were brought vividly to life by Wednesday night’s energetic cast. Matthew Edwardson was a lithe, flexible Peter Pan, adventurous and self-centred in equal measure. Vida Polakov was a wide-eyed, light-footed Wendy with Adam Alzaim and Alessio Scognamiglio as her boisterous brothers. Matthew Lehmann was Captain Hook, his swagger evaporating whenever he heard the crocodile approaching. But it was Chihiro Nomura who stole the show as Tinkerbell, fluttering and buzzing en pointe and exploding into fist-clenching tantrums. The corps de ballet numbers seemed to favour energy over symmetry and there were a couple of stumbles in the principal roles. But what was lacking in precision was amply compensated by a rollicking good tale.
The rapid scene changes kept momentum high. Fredrikson’s imaginative sets included: a spectacular night sky for the flying scene including high-kicking stars decked in fishnets and headdresses; roly poly Lost Boys hiding in a lush jungle; Indians led by Tiger Lily (a impressive Florence Leroux-Coleno); pirates rushing around with clumsy ineptness; a mermaid scene with dry ice creating the impression the en pointe mermaids were floating effortlessly across the stage and Captain Hook’s ship where a whirling battle scene resulted with Hook ultimately walking the plank.
Norman’s pastiche of musical genres gave each scene it’s own flavour, from flamenco-inflected battle scenes to cabaret star sequences and bluesy pirate slapstick. The West Australian Philharmonic Orchestra under Myron Romanul injected their own storytelling with bird squawks, a ticking crocodile and plenty of flute solos to accompany Peter Pan.
The magic of the theatre held my children entranced for two hours, no mean feat for a four and six year old out long past their bed time. They were stunned by the flying scene “How did they do that?” (no spoilers here!) and engrossed in the storytelling. There was real worry when Peter Pan was wounded by Hook, followed by gleeful laughter when the ticking crocodile made the pirate quiver in his boots. And there was relief when Tinkerbell revealed her kind side in a lyrical solo dance for Peter Pan.
When the Darling children returned home and recounted the adventure to their parents it was obvious which characters were being described – a measure of Kerr’s clever choreography and also the talent of the cast who so whole-heartedly inhabited their roles.
Peter Pan continues until December 10th. Tickets from $22 – $120