Last weekend we went to Stratford upon Avon to see a performance by the RSC at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The Theatre has recently been completely refurbished and extended and this is our first visit since it reopened. I like what they have done and how they have kept the shell of the original Art Deco building with its distinctive brick work and doors.
In front of the theatre are a series of sculptures of what are probably the best known characters in Shakespeare’s plays
These first two are Falstaff and Lady Macbeth. I'm not so keen on him, not my conception of Falstaff at all, but I think she looks suitably menacing, not to mention cross-eyed!
I much prefer the two princes - the tragic Hamlet and the triumphant Prince Hal.
I also love this new sculpture of swans - I think the lines are amazing
So, you may be asking, which of Shakespeare’s works did we grace with our presence? Well actually none of it! we went to see Peter Pan or more accurately ‘Wendy and Peter Pan’ a new play based on the original novel told from a feminist perspective.
it worked brilliantly! The script was witty and amusing, engaging adults and children in the audience alike and the set was amazing including the best pirate ship I have ever seen, and I am in a position to compare as I have seen Peter Pan on a number of occasions.
I think one of the reasons I have a soft spot for Peter Pan is that it was the first live theatre I ever saw. It was 1960 I was 8 and I saw what I think must have been the pre or post West End run at the Streatham Hill Theatre - now long since turned into a bingo hall. The all star cast included Julia Lockwood as Peter (always played by a girl in those days in true Pantomime tradition, no dame in Peter Pan though), Juliet Mills as Wendy and Donald Sinden as Captain Hook / Mr Darling a part that was traditionally always doubled up. I found the whole thing completely magical and practiced flying by jumping off my bed for the next few weeks (sadly to no avail).
The next version I saw was in 1965 when I was invited to go to a performance with my friend Bonnie whose grandmother was taking all her grandchildren. The whole thing was quite an adventure, Bonnie’s mother took us, together with Bonnie's much younger brother Geoff, over to Portsmouth on the ferry and from there we were put on a train to Horsham in Sussex where Bonnie's grandmother would join us on the journey to London (first time on a train without an accompanying adult). We then went to the matinee at the Scala followed by tea at the Grovenor Hotel (another first) before going back to Horsham where we spent the night at her grandmother's returning to the Island the following day.
That year Peter was played by Sylvia Sims and I felt the magic as before, although I had given up trying to fly!
My next outing to see Peter was in 1997 when my son was 5 years old. This time we saw it at the National Theatre with an all start cast led by Ian McKellen as Captain Hook - Mrs Darling was played by Jenny Agutter currently of ‘Call the Midwife’ fame but then still very much associated with her role of Bobbie in the Railway Children (you can imagine how old this made me feel!) Again a magical production. Patrick sat through the 3 hours as mesmerised as I had been all those years ago, giving the lie to his teachers who said he had a short attention span!
Some time after this, and I can’t track down the year, we saw a production at our local theatre the Watermill, again an excellent production but due to the limitations of the venue my memory is there was no flying.
So when, quite by chance, I came upon the reviews for 'Wendy and Peter Pan' I simply couldn't resist and don't forget if you want to visit Neverland it's “Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning. ”