Printable CopyPETER PAN
Venture Theatre Company
Trinity Uniting Hall
Until 18 Nov 2017

Review by Anthony Vawser

Does ‘the boy who never grew up’ still have enough fairy dust to keep himself (and his story) airborne for audiences in 2017? With directors Luke Wagner & Nicolle Smith at the helm of the ship, plus the delightfully expressive and engaging performance of Lorren Gartland in the title role: definitely.

Of course, Peter doesn’t carry this show all on his lonesome; Eryn Kralj exudes a strong stage presence playing the character of Wendy as the calm centre around which chaos swirls, while Shelley Carman is visually striking and consistently amusing as Miss Smee. The accomplished vocal talents of Lucy Marshallsay (in the part of Tiger Lily) light up the show at just the right moment, in just the right way. Lost Boy Tootles (in the form of David Giles) would seem to possess enough energy and enthusiasm to power this entire panto single-handedly.

Jake Picken and Tom Lee as John and Michael project a nice rapport that helps to carry their thread of the story. Terry O’Neill’s Captain Hook is much more comic than scary, which is probably as it should be in this pantomime setting. Kristy Mundy and Kerriann Mitchell (as Hook’s goofball offsiders, Line and Sinker), given material of variable quality, work hard to win us over; while enjoyable in small doses, the pair are sometimes overly indulged with routines that slow the action down.
Backdrops are nicely drawn and projected, costumes are equally effective and enjoyable to look at, and lighting design had its effective moments. Sound was an area with room for improvement; at times, too little (or none) of the intended amplification was present, and at others (generally the beginning of pre-recorded backing tracks), we got blasted with far more volume than was necessary.

That said, the music itself is often shrewdly selected and easy to join in (or at least go along) with, especially when the ensemble are leading the way so cheerfully – but a statically-staged version of a Jim Steinman classic is ineffective, and a rocking adaptation of a beloved Disney tune winds up going on too long. In fact, parents should be aware that opening night clocked in at almost an hour over the advertised run-time. More attention to sharpness of pace (in Act 2 particularly) should help to reduce this issue.

A pleasant, good-hearted experience for all ages is what you’ll get from Venture’s “Peter Pan”. Its virtues outweigh the flaws and make it a fun time at the theatre.

Luke Wagner is a reviewer for Adelaide Theatre Guide.