Kids love this show. This is the first and ultimately most important thing to say about Peter Pan on Dinosaur Island by Spotlites Theatre Productions at Spotlites @ The Merchants’ Hall. Ask any of the 5-12 year olds who made up the bulk of our audience for a check-list of the things they want in a Fringe show, and you’ll probably find most of them here. Lots of opportunities to get up on stage and be part of the play: check. Chocolate rewards for doing so: check. Sword-fighting that everyone can join in with: check. Dinosaurs, of both the scary and friendly variety: check. Throw in light-up sabres, lots of comedy, and of course a poo-fairy, and they really have everything covered.
As an adult I had a couple of frustrations. The story isn’t always easy to follow, with parts of the plot (for example, the time vortex storyline) becoming unnecessarily complicated. The cast of three play multiple roles, and some characters don’t feel particularly well developed. At times, especially in the first act, this meant that my attention drifted. To be fair, this didn’t seem to trouble the children in the audience. Any lull in the action was quickly resolved by a chance to participate either on stage or from the audience. Moreover, what was especially interesting for this reviewer was hearing younger audience members fill any gaps in the story with their own imaginations, and there were plenty of magical touches in the presentation of the play to stimulate creative young brains.
The show is staged on a plain black box set, but the use of coloured light, sound effects and smoke were brilliantly evocative, creating a real sense of atmosphere and location. Similarly, a musical soundtrack was used effectively throughout, moving the mood easily from tension to comedy.
The three performers (James Cowden, Kieron Riddell, and Emma Akwafo) do a good job shifting between several roles: their use of physicality and voice to create these often larger than life characters is impressive. Occasionally they talk over each other and lines are lost, and there were a couple of occasions when children were invited on stage to perform a specific task and the performer’s voice became too quiet to hear, excluding the rest of the audience. All three engage extremely well with the children, however, and go about their work with enormous skill, commitment and energy.
The tag-line for this and Spotlites’ other shows is ‘interactive theatre for kids who don’t just want to sit still and watch’ and as an introduction to participatory drama for children, this excels, stimulating and involving them at every step. The company also manage their young audience’s enthusiasm admirably. In the midst of all the excitement and participation, the play is never disrupted. With a range of interactive plays and drama workshops on offer at this Fringe, Spotlites, know, and cater for their audience brilliantly. It’s not hard to see why they’re an award-winning company, whose shows sell out on a regular basis.
The view from my 9 year old son? ‘A good play that has lots of features people will enjoy and always brings surprises’. (And he wants to go again).
And I own up, I was gleefully throwing dino-poo at Captain Hook with the best of them!