PETER PAN THE NEVER ENDING STORY at The Hydro, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 11.1.14
THE STAGE is a long way from the audience, at the huge new SSE Hydro, across 50 feet of space. Even before the show starts, though, the set for this stadium version of Peter Pan – a series of giant story-books strewn across the stage – makes a strong impression; and once the show is under way, the ever-changing series of dream-landscapes and images projected across its surfaces has the 10,000-strong crowd gasping and applauding, as the show’s design-team unfolds an unsettling aesthetic that lies somewhere between Mary Poppins, Salvador Dali, and the grungier end of science-fantasy-fiction.
With a cast of more than 40, including 27 dancers and acrobats, this Music Hall show – directed by Luc Petit – is nothing if not big; and there are times when it seems like such a massive collision of different styles and aspirations that it threatens to lose the plot altogether, both literally and aesthetically. It’s a live show driven almost entirely by its pre-filmed visual images and its pre-recorded orchestral score of recent pop standards; and their combined force often completely overwhelms both the detail of Barrie’s story, and the tiny live performers, dwarfed by their own huge live images projected onto the set.
As the story reaches its climax, though, it seems to focus more tightly on the mood and meaning of Barrie’s story, allowing the most forceful and impressive actors to build some kind of connection with the audience. And although Tinkerbell’s ill-conceived voice-over narrative is enough to make any connoisseur of stagecraft weep, this is still a memorably weird and spectacular show, with a cast whose terrific collective presence at the final curtain-call shows how much more they could have done, if this show had been more like a piece of theatre, and less like a visit to some wild, weird movie sound-stage, in the land that taste forgot.