Skip to main content

Review of Peter And The Starcatcher at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The opportunity to see a European premiere of a Tony award-winning Broadway hit on the Royal stage is a wonderful thing to behold, and to leave more than a little disappointed from the experience does sadden me a little. There is no question that Peter and the Starcatcher it is a remarkable theatre experience, filled with stunning stage craft and a dream cast at the top of their game. However Rick Elice's adaption of the 2006 book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson is frequently more disappointing than stunning. It lurks in the dangerous area of not being sure whether it is a fun and enthusiastic family play or just simply a pantomime.

It all starts dreadfully, with ten to fifteen minutes of the most overwhelming and full-on story-telling. Filling the heads of the audience with so much information at the start really isn't clever and reminded me greatly of the comment that Little Sally says at the start of Urinetown about "too much exposition". It is all brilliantly presented by the cast, but is not the way to start a play that is meant to be for all the family. It thankfully calms down a little, but still remains reliant on performance and brilliant set pieces to make it work at all.

One of those performances that pretty much saves the show is Greg Haiste's Black Stache, it is not an exaggeration that this performance, akin to Rik Mayall, is perhaps one of the best I have seen this year and this show could be close to nothing without him and his repartee with Smee (the brilliant Dan Starkey). Also quite brilliant (and a pleasure to see on the Royal stage again) is Evelyn Hoskins as Molly. A really great playful, but equally dominating performance, reigning over the men of the piece, and she is clearly always "better than boys".

The role of Molly highlights another enormous gripe with this show, how male dominated it is. Evelyn of the cast of twelve, is the only female and in this age this is not only an outrage but totally unnecessary. Sure there is great comedy value from having Michael Matus play Mrs Bumbrake, but all that smacks at outrageous sexism that at no point they felt more ladies could take up the other male roles. It is sad that such a modern show as this still feels that it can get away with things like this. I am afraid theatre at times, like many modern areas needs to grow-up.

While I am still being negative, I am not sure where and why the decision to include modern references was decided. While this is very clearly a late nineteenth century setting, including a famous explorer reference, the script decides that we need references to J.K. Rowling, Michael Jackson and Starbucks of all things. Hearing them alongside references to Queen Victoria and the British Empire is ridiculous. They are stunningly inappropriate inserts providing nothing other that perhaps a vague titter, but more commonly perhaps a shake of the head as to their pointlessness.

However for all the negatives, there is one scene late in the second half with Black Stash and a trunk that perhaps could happily go down as one of the very best comedic scenes you are likely to see at the theatre. It goes a very long way to make you want to love the show as it truly is brilliantly funny moment. However by this point, you have waded through so much, it is most certainly too little too late to save this story from sinking to the very depths.

So yes, this is at times stunning theatre because of an exceptional cast and skilled production and directorship from Luke Sheppard. However when the material is as hit and miss as this sadly is, it leaves a huge lingering disappointment in the heart. Regular theatre goers and lovers of the craft of theatre itself will gain from the production, less regular ones however are I fear going to be turned off the whole situation by the heavy handedness of the telling. Not a crushing disappointment, but sadly this story really rarely lives up to the story it proceeds.

★★★½


Performance reviewed: Tuesday 6th December, 2016 (matinee) at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.


Peter And The Starcatcher runs at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 31st December, 2016.


For further details visit the Royal & Derngate website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Bombshell by Contact Light Theatre at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

Warning: This review contains spoilers

Whether it is an overwhelming success or mostly a failure, I have over the years grown a huge affinity for fresh new work on the stage. The need to regurgitate and rework old pieces continuously may well get easy bums on seats, but at the end of the night, it has no doubt pleased a few but it hasn't really made any future impact on theatre of the future. Presenting a new play and new work, however, who knows what it might have seeded in the years to come?

Therefore as I watched Bombshell, not only a new play, but also the first offering from a new theatre company, I was thrilled that first of all, it leaned much more towards the success line, and also that over half filling the theatre, it had also put quite a few of the bums on seats as well.

Curiously I have recently read Festen by David Eldridge, and while Bombshell goes much its own way, I felt early on, I (and perhaps others in the audience), felt I had a distinct advantage over some of …

Review of Balm in Gilead, University of Northampton BA Acting (Creative Acting) at Maidwell Hall, Northampton

Watching the production of Balm in Gilead sees my entering the fifth year of following the University of Northampton acting students, and what theatre they have provided over the years!

Balm in Gilead is no less intriguing than anything that has gone before, written in 1965 by Lanford Wilson, you might think this would be a dated item for the young students to be performing, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Set in a cafe (transposed to England from its original American setting), it sees the lives of addicts, homeless and sex workers converge into a mixture of good but mostly bad moments.
My first time in the Maidwell Hall saw an encounter with a brilliantly realised community full of the world of the cafe and the surrounding homes, cardboard boxes and dishevelled beds. As we enter the characters of this world begin living alongside us, addressing us, begging us for money, pushing shopping trolleys around offering off the cuff exchanges with the audience and confronti…

Review of This Evil Thing at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

This Evil Thing written and performed by Michael Mears isn't my first encounter with a play about conscientious objectors, however, it absolutely is the most detailed in its explanation of the subject. A clear and absolute labour of love from Michael Mears, and an obviously very personal thing for him, it leaves the audience pretty much in its grip for the whole of its 80 minutes.

Almost uniquely, our performer Michael Mears is in the theatre stalls upon entry, observing the arrival of the audience and indeed exchanging conversation at times. It's fascinating to see a performer not only there, but seemingly so relaxed pre-show and as he bounds on the stage at show start, this little nugget proves intriguing in itself.

Michael Mears is a captivating presence on stage, as previously experienced on the same stage in A Tale Of Two Cities and The Herbal Bed, therefore it comes as little surprise that he has a confident ability to make a one-man show work, and so well. With the use …