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Following Wendy
Published on Wednesday, 18 August 2010

4 stars

C soco (venue website)
4-21 Aug, 4:35pm (5:35pm)
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

When Wendy took Peter’s arm and flew off to Neverland, what happened to the people she left behind?  That’s the question posed by this strikingly original play, which combines an intriguing script with a strong physical performance from a talented young cast.  And – just as all ancient fairy tales contain a core of menace – so the answer, when it comes, is dark.

There’s a conspiratorial feel to this intimate production, delivered to a small audience round a ragged, improvised stage.  We saw Wendy fly out of the third-storey window; her boyfriend, Sebastian, saw it too.  But nobody believes him.  Well, would you?  Accused of murder by a high-handed police, his only hope of exoneration is to find his own way to Neverland.  But Wendy’s life with Peter isn’t all that it seems… and even if she wants to leave, there may not be a way back home.

Following Wendy is a visual treat, filled with elegance and perfectly evocative of other worlds.  The elfin characters are well-expressed; Peter and Tinkerbell have a lovely lightness of movement, sometimes flowing and sometimes sharp, but always sprightly and redolent of joy.  Nicely-styled tableaux set the scene every bit as effectively as an elaborate set, and intervals of perfectly-choreographed physical humour add a surreally entertaining twist.

Don’t imagine, though, that this play ranks style over substance.  There’s a deeply thoughtful plot underpinning it all, which deftly matches Peter’s world of fairies with an anxious view of our own society.  Under-age drinkers cast off their hoodies, revealing the sparkling costumes of Neverland’s lost boys; the police are capricious and juvenile, as though they, too, refused to grow up.  Unheralded scene changes scatter us through space and time, ensuring we never quite get our bearings on this queasily fantastical sea.  And at the end, there’s a vicious punch in the gut, made all the more shocking by the fact I should have seen it coming all along.

Frustratingly, though, a couple of weaker segments mean I can’t quite give this play the accolades I feel it could have earned.  There’s a freaky repetitiveness to a lot of the dialogue, justified by the plot but – I’m afraid – rather over-done; for a brief moment, I became as bored with the play itself as Wendy was bored with the childish Peter.  And the ending, I thought, was botched; the entire final scene felt tacked on, an unnecessary reprise, detracting from the satisfying conclusion to Wendy’s own story that we’d seen just moments before.

Those reservations, though, do little to detract from a stylish and intelligent play, which audaciously reinterprets a century-old story and creates something fitting for the modern age.  There’s beauty and there’s menace, there’s insight and there’s humour, and there’s plenty to discuss on your journey home.  And so – some time this month – you too should make the time to follow Wendy.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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