Peter Pan, Wales Millennium Centre, review: More polite pantomime than in-your-face anarchy

Losing their way in Neverland

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The Independent Culture

Peter Pan’s idea of fun is selfish and often cruel or dangerous. As the archetypal boy who refuses to grow up, his creation seems an act of protest by JM Barrie against stifling Edwardian values – while Neverland proves an admonishment for those who try to escape them.

Such perversity is operatic dynamite in the making. Yet Richard Ayres’s Peter Pan, at Welsh National Opera, is more polite pantomime than the composer’s familiar in-your-face anarchy, despite spirited crazy-paving from the WNO Orchestra under conductor Erik Nielsen. Shadow and threat are namechecked, but the social order never teeters, nor is it critiqued through Lavinia Greenlaw’s blunt-edged libretto.

Director Keith Warner runs an inventive, tight ship, with aerial acrobatics and video Tinkerbell. The cast sing, act and fly with commitment down to the last Lost Boy: Iestyn Morris’s Pan capers around Ashley Holland’s slapstick Mr Darling/Hook, while Marie Arnet (Wendy) and Hilary Summers (Mrs Darling/Tiger Lily) endure the sexism and faux “Red Indians” with vocal grace.

But the highest plaudits go to the brilliant technical team in an opera uncertain what its audience is and what messages to give out.