REVIEW: Peter Pan at The Dukes, Lancaster

Captain Hook, played by Helen Longworth, leads the cast of Peter Pan in a scene from The Dukes production.
Captain Hook, played by Helen Longworth, leads the cast of Peter Pan in a scene from The Dukes production.

JM Barrie’s classic tale of adventure and childhood has been told many times, in many different ways.

But not so much perhaps from the point of view of Peter’s common fairy Tinker Bell, played by young actor Jason Patel in what is his first professional performance.

Gareth Morgan as Peter Pan in The Dukes production which runs until January 5.

Gareth Morgan as Peter Pan in The Dukes production which runs until January 5.

And what a performance!

The Dukes’ penchant for adding new styles, new colours and new dimensions to classic stories such as this results in another festive triumph for the theatre. The five strong cast - Helen Longworth (mum, Captain Hook, Floss, Fairy), Henry Mettle (Jack, Smee, Extra, Fairy), Gareth Morgan (Peter Pan, Fairy, Pirate Tilly), Dora Rubenstein (Wendy, Starkey, Fairy), and Patel as Tinker Bell, Tootles, Mikey and a Pirate, certainly have their work cut out in terms of changing characters.

The dialogue and action is fast paced, but all five of them glide effortlessly across a spectrum of costumes, accents and gender roles, leaving little pause for breath.

Jason Patel’s portrayal of Tinker Bell is hilarious, endearing, warm, and intricate.

A scene from The Dukes production of Peter Pan which runs until January 5.

A scene from The Dukes production of Peter Pan which runs until January 5.

The role demands camp flair, which Patel has in droves.

Equally, as Lost Boy Tootles he’s a joy to watch.

Stagecraft trickery includes Tinker Bell’s flight around the room as a flickering light, flying characters using ropes and hoists, some amazingly executed slow motion fight scenes and a stage underneath which lurks an alarmingly unnerving crocodile.

There’s music styles aplenty as well, earworms of songs with funk, soul, hip-hop, punk and swashbuckling shanties that had everyone nodding and singing along.

Gareth Morgan plays a bombastic, boastful and fearless Pan, the boy that never grew up, with some great one-liners, whilst also displaying the vulnerabilities and flaws of masculinity in a subtle and heart-warming way. You’re never too old for a cuddle from mum.

As Wendy’s mum, Helen Longworth portrays brilliantly the trials andtribulations of parenthood, while as Captain Hook she’s able to let her hair down and play the villain with gusto, her assumed fearsome control of the other pirates and orders to laugh on command having hilarious results.

As we all know, Hook doesn’t fare well in the end.

She appeared in The Dukes’ Christmas performance of Aladdin in 2017, alongside Dora Rubinstein, who plays Wendy this time, doing a very fine job of it too. Henry Mettle is brilliant as pirate Smee, and how all of the characters are able to change so smoothly and effectively is credit to the direction by Sarah Punshon and choreography by Zak Phillips-Yates.

There’s a particularly great scene towards the end of the play where all the pirate characters are on stage, and they have to get all the Lost Boys, Peter Pan, Wendy and Tinker Bell onstage at the same time, requiring some audience participation to bridge the gap.

Everything about this performance is quality, the dialogue is original and funny, the message about the need to maintain a bit of magic in a modern world comes across loud and clear and The Round, yet again, proves to be up there with one of the best small venues in the region.

Peter Pan runs at The Dukes until January 5.

For tickets visit www.dukes-lancaster.org, or call 01524 598500.