15 – 21 August
1635-1735, C Soco
If you find yourself being flown straight on til morning by this production’s version of JM Barrie’s hero, you will discover the true nature of Neverland; a place where – like Peter himself – you will never grow old.
Taking the premise and characters from the original and giving them a dark, modern twist, Following Wendy is a new production by young Bristol-based theatre company Jam Jar Productions. Here, Wendy is modern-day teenager, excited at the prospect of her new friend Peter attending her forthcoming house party.
Her best friend Sebastian is jealous and upset at the prospect of Wendy slipping from his grasp: and when she does – spirited away by Peter and Tinkerbell – he finds himself desperately trying to find out what happened to her, and how to get her back.
With an eerie otherwordliness, the young actors present a memorable vision through some intimate and clever staging and strong expressive performances. The actors playing Wendy and Sebastian are good, portraying the adolescent angst and wonder of their parts convincingly. Backed by an ever-present chorus of heavily made-up Lost Boys, who shift the simple props around stage and assist with some of the physical segments of the performance, the main actors in the piece hold the attention throughout.
The standout performances are those of Peter himself, played with a disturbingly Puck-like amoral mischief by an actor whose mannerisms and expressions fit the role perfectly. Equally strong is Tinkerbell, the fairy who wishes she was human; the actress playing this part puts in a partly comic turn which is quite captivating and excellently delivered.
The mood of the piece has a Gaiman-like quality, where things are never what they seem and the tone can turn as dark as the night sky in an instant. When realisation of their situation dawns on the characters, it is to the writing’s credit that the audience are only one small step ahead, and the story of what really happened to Wendy has strong dramatic impact and emotion, heightened by some effective lighting and sound design.
Jam Jar deliver a compelling and gripping vision in Following Wendy, with mature writing and strong performances throughout. With only a few dates left to run, it is well worth following them to the dark intimacy of Studio 4 in C Soco to discover their terrible truths for yourself.
Ticket information is available on the Fringe website
Review by Keith D