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Peter Pan gives flight to childhood fantasies

THE special effects are spectacular as Wendy Darling and Peter soar above the stage at the Grand Canal Theatre in this production of Peter Pan, which had its world premiere in Dublin.

Based on the enduring children's story first produced for the stage by JM Barrie in 1904, it has enthralled parents and children for over a century. The story is a convoluted mixture of Peter Pan and his 'tir na nog' complex, the brutality of the pirate life and the strange Victorian lost boys. And then there is a tribe of Indians thrown in, as if there weren't enough ingredients in the mix already.

Barrie has always been considered a deeply complex and flawed figure given to photographing young girls in his back garden, but that doesn't take from the enduring legacy of the book and the various theatrical performances that Peter Pan has spawned over the years.

This Michael Rose-produced all-singing, all-dancing affair has truly wonderful scenery and lighting, a great cast of lost boys, pirates and Indians, and probably the best stage crocodile we've seen.

"It has great appeal, there's the magic of flying for both children and adults to witness on stage," says Rose. You couldn't but agree that the flying sequences are breathtaking.

Katie Ray is probably a little bit more mature than you would have expected for Wendy, which was no great hardship for the dads in the audience. She holds the show together and is on stage for most of the performance, dressed in a fetching short yellow night dress.

Daniel Boys is a suitable boy/man Peter.

There is a touch of pantomime to the show, with one child crying out, "He's behind you!", and wolf whistles and oohs for the on-screen kiss between Wendy and Peter.

Harry Frances as John Darling and Maureen Nolan (of the Nolan Sisters) as the mother sing well, and Harry doubles as Captain Hook, a suitably raffish figure.

The best known member of the cast is Smee, Captain Hook's sidekick, played by Les Dennis. A salty old sea dog complete with white beard, he would appear more at home singing sea shanties with an Irish ballad group than as the star of a musical, but I enjoyed his contribution.

There is no stand-out song in Peter Pan and some of the lyrics are extremely mundane, but it is the enduring magic of Peter Pan that holds it together. It's definitely a show for those who love colour and theatricality -- and if you still believe in fairies, it helps.

Director David Morgan, set designer Alan Miller Bunford, lighting designer Alistair Grant and Carry On Costumes have done a superb job.

Sunday Independent