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Review: Peter Pan - The Never Ending Story - Wembley Arena ✭✭

Peter Pan: The Never Ending Story  
Wembley Arena

Review by Emma Curry

Peter Pan is one of those classic tales that always carries a Christmassy edge, due to its frequent reincarnation as a pantomime at this time of year. This new show has none of the low-budget sets or dodgy one-liners you might expect from a traditional panto, however. It’s an all-singing, all-dancing, acrobatic spectacular, rather like Cirque de Soleil mashed up with a musical.

The big-name casting is Stacey Solomon, who plays Tinkerbell. She narrates the story from offstage for most of the play, only appearing onstage at the very end for an audience chant of ‘I believe in fairies’ and a heartfelt rendition of ‘You Raise Me Up’. At first I found her constant narration a little strange, but the reason for it soon became clear: there isn’t any dialogue within this show.  Instead it is more of a visual spectacular: the groups of marauding pirates, Red Indians, and Lost Boys are dance troupes in the manner of Britain’s Got Talent winners Diversity, swooping around the stage on ropes and wires and performing impressive breakdances and acrobatics. Such moments are visually stunning - particularly the final battle between Hook and Peter. The lighting and back-drops are also brilliantly done, encompassing the whole of the stage and effectively conveying the magical landscapes of Neverland. At one point, Peter Pan even flies ‘without wires’, making use of a wind tunnel to great effect.

However, whilst the show looked incredibly impressive, as it went on the drawbacks of performing in such a huge arena became clear. There’s very little engagement between audience and performers, and the lack of dialogue means that we really struggle to become involved in the story at any point. After two hours, Tinkerbell’s narration just began to seem rather patronising. The special effects are also impressive, but incredibly loud: whenever the wind tunnel was switched on the music had to be turned up to almost deafening levels in order to be heard over the noise of the generator. And the choice of songs was at times embarrassingly cheesy and simplistic: ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ for Wendy leaving with Peter, ‘I Am Sailing’ for when they return in the pirate ship. The Rasmus’s ‘In the Shadows’ was one of the worst, chosen for the moment when Peter realises he’s left his shadow behind, despite the fact that the song’s lyrics had no actual relevance to what was happening at all. 

These moments were a shame, as so much effort had clearly gone into the visual effects of the show. If only the same had gone for the script and songs, I would have found it much more enjoyable. As it was, I found the whole thing rather soulless. If you’re looking to be awed, I’d go along, but if you were hoping for a more rough-round-the-edges pantomimic jaunt, I’d avoid this. 

Two stars ✭✭

Remaining Tour Dates

Jan 10th - Jan 12th 2014: Hydro Arena, Glasgow
Jan 15th - Jan 16th 2014: Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle

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