13 December 2022
Yesterday we received a wonderful review from NODA following our recent Peter Pan production. This can be read below.
Congratulations to everyone involved!
Author: Nathan Benson
Many thanks to Kirkham Grammar School for inviting me along to see that performance of Peter Pan at Sumerlee Hall on Friday the 25th of November 2022. I must admit, I came along expecting to see a pantomime, and I was quite surprised to learn the production was a play of nature; that being said, this play was not a straight play, I would more describe it as a piece of performance art, as injected into the text and narrative were interludes of physical theatre, choreography and music (performed by the cast themselves with props or with piano accompaniment wonderfully played by George Godbold). The story told of a time that the very familiar Peter Pan pays a visit to Wendy and her two brothers, Michael and George, one evening when they go to sleep, along with his infamous sidekick, Tinkerbell. It is an evening when the children’s parents come down on them quite heavy about needing to grow up. As one would expect, the children and their guest fly out of the window to see the lost boys in Neverland. Along the way we follow their adventures meeting the Indians, fairies (who act as the narrators along the way), mermaids and Peter Pan’s worst enemy, Captain Cook, and his pirates. Mishaps on mayhem’s naturally unravel along this fairytale narrative, and all of which is resolved, and the status quo returned for Wendy and her two brothers return home to their parents and Nanna the dog.
The piece was directed by Miss Leeming and the students had their input into the production themselves, most notably the dance chorus who played the mermaids, more on this to follow. Miss Leeming did an exceptional job at telling this narrative and combining different theatre styles and techniques together to separate the fantasy versus reality elements of the production, to bring the fairytale to life. The set was epic and consistently detailed, using the full stage and all the available apron space marked out on the gym floor. Staging was used to its maximum potential, with a bedroom and full ship being constructed on stage for the home scene and the pirates, a truck mimicking rocks emerging from the sea for the mermaids and huts and other areas of staging transporting the action to other locations to facilitate the plot. Staging was also used creatively keeping interesting uses of levels and shapes to keep the piece visually stimulating for audiences of all ages. Costumes were fabulous and depicting the classic characters well and adding great context to the piece, also most performers had some form of make-up painted on to add further detail to the design, such as dirt marks on the Lost Boy’s faces and green shimmer for the mermaids. I also need to call out the 12-foot, three person operated crocodile, which swam menacingly throughout the performance to add dread and fear to Captain Hook!
The cast included 83 pupils from all years of the School and Sixth Form, so to call out everyone would be laborious so I am choosing to summarise with all members of the cast did a wonderful job at creating a wonderful evening of entertainment and should be thoroughly proud of their work and performances, there was not a moment that a player was onstage and out of character or unsure of what they were doing. It is not easy to seamlessly jump between theatre styles and integrate dance and music into a play version of a production, you all did fantastically to achieve this and there was great focus and attention throughout the performance and some lovely characterisations brought about to the stage! There were a few stand out performances and moments within the production that I would like to deliberate further within this report.
Peter Pan was played by Olivia Coupe and Wendy by Brooke Medhurst. They both shone in their roles and brought out great contrasting, yet complimentary characteristics, Peter flippant and excitable, Wendy calm and resounding. They both were very grounded and made good use of internalisation of emotion and brought varying senses of urgency to take the audience along their journeys. I would also like to call out at this stage, Isabella Kola who played Peter’s shadow. This was a great use of physical theatre to bring this concept to life through use of mirroring and breaking this to personify the shadow as its own entity, this was well delivered by both Peters.
Captain Hook and Smee were played by Tyler Cowie and Shahmeer Amir. Again, the pair brought nice contrasting characteristics to these characters, Hook being flamboyant and almost panto villain in style of delivery, with Smee being more reserved and internalised with mannerisms.
I loved the musical arrangement brought to the stage by Hannah Pilkington, Emilia Simpson and Louisa Seacy as the principal Indians who used 6ft wooden poles as a percussion instrument through hitting it rhythmically on the floor in time with their tribal choreography. This was embellished by a melody underneath but gave a very authentic feel to the Indians.
The Mermaids were a real highlight of the show for me. They delivered a flawless technical piece of contemporary dance each time they were presented on the stage, which was enriched with precise lines of energy and synchronised eyelines throughout. These dances were a stunning fusion of balletic, contemporary, lyrical and acro techniques which captured the majestic and elegant concepts of mermaid movements perfectly. I was further impressed to learn that this extremely technical choreography was brought about by the performers themselves!
Last but by no means least, Tinkerbell was played by Tabitha Berry. This performance was consistently outstanding throughout the production! For a non-verbal part, she expressively gave her characters thoughts, feelings and reactions extremely clearly and with control, which clearly translated as communication to other characters to drive the story forwards. There was not a moment she did not embody the character and gave a sassy richness to the bring a more modern interpretation with her.
Thank you once again to everyone involved within this production. I look forward to seeing future productions from Kirkham Grammar School.