Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Exploring the dark edge of Neverland, Following Wendy brings Peter Pan into the modern-day, when Sebastian Merryweather’s story that Wendy Moira Angela Darling simply disappeared out of the nursery window holding the hand of a boy with no shadow is revealed to have a far more sinister explanation. Explored through physical theatre, this play handles heavy themes, from alcoholism to death, without ever losing its light touch.
Following Wendy merges the fantastic with grim realism as the sinister truth behind Sebastian’s claim that Wendy disappeared out of the nursery window holding hands with a boy with no shadow gradually emerges. As well as focusing on what happened to the people left behind when Wendy disappeared, it builds on the legend that Mrs Darling heard when she was a child in J.M.Barrie’s Peter and Wendy, that Peter Pan took children part of the away into the afterlife so they would not be scared when they died.
Production values are very high in this blend of drama and physical theatre. Light and sound effects are used to good effect, always enhancing and never overwhelming. The use of LED lights in particular is both magical and moving, giving a real poignancy to the ending. The acting is competent, with the less serious parts clearly having more fun than the more central roles of Wendy and Sebastian, which are a little over-played. However, Peter Pan looks as though he has been transported straight from Neverland, and Tinkerbell is simply sparkling. This Tinkerbell is a far sweeter character than Disney’s jealous little fairy, her distressed concern a foil to Peter’s inability to understand the feelings of other people.
By pure chance this was my second Peter Pan-inspired show of the day, both of which were staged at C Soco. The coincidences kept coming as the two shows, although by all accounts developed completely separately, appeared to have used both the same choreographer and make-up artist. Despite this, they are two very different plays. Following Wendy was a more grounded, grown-up performance than The Second Star to the Right’s ethereal trip to Neverland, although both used physical theatre to break the boundaries of time and place that are difficult to convey with a limited set. This coincidence in approach seems to be justified by how well the form works in the context of Neverland, the light, airy and downright unexpected movements pushing at the edges of the expected. However, it did occasionally look a little forced – it doesn’t seem to be the natural mode for all of the actors.
Minor quibbles aside, this is a very solid show. It’s well plotted, competently performed and excellently staged, and extremely accessible. Although I have given it the same star rating as The Second Star to the Right, Following Wendy is likely to have broader appeal, being more conventionally plot driven.