Hot chocolate, sleeping in, fairies, buffets and mermaids. A running theme in Stage Two Productions’ Peter/Wendy are thoughts of happiness. While some of these thoughts are objectively questionable (I’ve always been daunted rather than delighted by human-fish hybrids), their general prominence reflects the overall joyful mood of the play.
The University of Auckland drama club, Stage Two, produces a number of smaller plays and events, along with one main bill show each year. Jeremy Bloom’s Peter/Wendy is the latter mentioned, and succeeds last years sold-out run of the socially aware and provocative Body of Faith. Peter/Wendy has the pressure of following a highly successful and intensely political play with an arguably simplistic children’s story. However, this is where the beauty of this production lies. Rather than bombarding its audience with intense deeper meanings and thought-provoking conundrums, Peter/Wendy showcases the joy of children, their happy thoughts, and in turn, simplicity. Obviously there are an undercurrent of meanings running within the narrative about the positives and negatives of maintaining a youthful outlook, but ultimately these are gentle and common truths, as opposed to aggressive mind-altering ideas.
The set and costuming of Peter/Wendy consists of crème coloured fabric, utilisation of chalk with limited other props and schematic lighting. While aesthetically pleasing, when the play first started I worried that this minimal staging would cause the story to be dissuading and hard to follow. For the first few scenes it seemed as if my concern was valid, with dialogue that would have been completely lost on me had the story of Peter Pan not been so familiar. However, luckily I quickly found my prediction dis-proven with the arrival of Neverland. Peter (Irene Corbett) and Wendy’s (Geneva Norman) journey among the clouds to the eternally adolescent land was portrayed through an enchanting and other-worldly dance scene. A resonating soundtrack, unlit stage, and tiny lights were used to an almost transcendent effect. From this point forward, the play captivated me, using this style throughout to portray many of the meaningful moments.
While these planned moments were unarguably beautiful, they were potentially upstaged by the possibly unplanned comedic instances throughout the play. At times, I struggled to connect with the deeper moments of adolescent issues within the play - possibly because I have fallen into the trap of adulthood. Yet, the childish humour of the play was heartwarming and recognisable. Moments of jesting amongst the lost boys, a questionably accidental smack to the face from Captain Hook (Daniel Vernon) to Smee (Caleb Wells), and shared glances of lit up eyes between the cast members all captured my attention the most.
Peter/Wendy, directed by Jesse Hilford, takes the classic characters from the original story and lets them shine. Through Stage Two’s simple and joyful intepretation, the audience is presented with a story that is delightful to watch, and memorable through its striking clarity. Performances from Peter and a particularly endearing and amusing lost boy (Jack Fairly) particularly stood out, however it is the whole cast’s engagement in the elation and humour of the story that makes Peter/Wendy a success.
With a short run ending this Saturday night, make sure to grab your tickets to the almost sold out Peter/Wendy from here.