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A baffling immersive show inspired by ‘Peter Pan’
‘It’s the best time of day. Betwixt and between where anything can happen.’ That’s what we’re told at the start of ‘Neverland’. The problem is, it was pretty hard to tell what was happening at all throughout this ‘Peter Pan’-inspired musical.
From The Guild of Misrule and Theatre Deli – whose previous shows include the experiential performance of ‘The Great Gatsby’ at The Vaults last year – this is the headline show of this year’s Vault Festival, so it’s surprising that it feels a bit amateur. With its labyrinth of tunnels under Waterloo station, The Vaults is a brilliant setting for immersive theatre, but I spent most of the performance in one room, the main stage, where it was sometimes hard to hear the actors and the acapella songs fell flat. During the opening half, there were moments where audience members were taken off to different parts of the set, but this was often clumsy and distracting – those left behind could hear loud voices behind a flimsy curtain, and at one point a group of people just walked through the main stage with no explanation. As a result, the first hour really dragged.
Eventually, I was whisked off to one of the side rooms, which helped pick up the pace a bit but the main issue was that the plot was almost impossible to follow. Rather than the story of ‘Peter Pan’, the show focuses on the ideas and narratives which inspired the book, written by JM Barrie, who stars as one of the play’s main characters. In this dream-like world, we meet Captain Hook, travel to the world of Lost Boys, but then there’s a bizarre subplot in which Peter, having left Neverland, has started his own publishing business which won’t publish fiction or stories for kids. Yup, the boy who wouldn’t grow up has, er, grown up and become a businessman.
There are fun moments – at one point, we’re given army uniforms to wear, made to stand to attention and given ‘ammunition’ (balls of screwed up paper) to attack Captain Hook and the other half of the audience with, but the show is too disjointed to follow. It’s hard to put yourself inside in the experience when you spend most of it totally baffled. ‘Neverland’ promises to help you ‘rediscover your lost child’, but I just left feeling lost.