Some reviews simply demand to begin with the words “What on earth possessed…?” One can certainly see the attractions for Spanish production company Theatre Properties of turning J.M. Barrie’s classic into a musical, but the reasoning behind importing it in its original form into the West End (even for a bare month) is a puzzler. Peter Pan is many children’s first experience of theatre: how much of its magic dust is going to be sprinkled on them when they find they have to read surtitles to follow the action – if, that is, they’ve yet learnt to read? Let alone to decipher these surtitles: occasional slips of translation combined with poor programming, phrasing and all but non-existent punctuation left me alternately gnashing my teeth in impatience and boggling in incomprehension at captions such as “There’s no badnes [sic] that can win a tree”. Director Cristina Fargas is also hampered by her lighting design, which is far too fond of atmospheric shadows. It is several minutes before we see the face of Capitán Garfio (Hook) beneath his hat.
Oh, but what a performance from Miguel Angel Gamero as the captain! His eyes (when visible) burn, and in song he hits sustained high notes reminiscent of no stage performer so much as Rob Halford of heavy metal band Judas Priest. The score is written in a genre rare for stage musicals in Britain: I have to admit that, in spite of my poor knowledge of the language, Hispanophone MOR rock is one of my guilty pleasures. Nevertheless, I did find it a bit much that instead of clapping our hands if we believed in fairies, we were exhorted by Miguel Antelo’s Peter to get to our feet and sing along with a power ballad in English and Spanish.
It is extremely tempting to portray this as a so-bad-it’s-good stinker of the kind from which the West End has been strangely free for a few years. In fact, little of the production is dire in itself but the whole affair is enmeshed in infelicities of transfer: neither the adaptation nor the production has travelled at all well.
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