Queensland Ballet: Peter Pan
The Playhouse, QPAC
This is the second season of Trey McIntyre’s Peter Pan in as many years for Queensland Ballet (QB). Premiering here in 2015, this restaging also marks the 15th anniversary of its world premiere by Houston Ballet.
McIntyre’s recreation of J M Barrie’s timeless story, first told as a play in 1904, combines dance with elements of traditional pantomime to create a visual feast, opening with a whimsical “fairy” light show, and moving swiftly from the Darling’s home to Neverland and back, in three short acts.
The fantastical moving set of many separate parts (designed by Thomas Boyd) successfully creates a sense of place with lightness and ease, while the score, drawn from an eclectic selection of Edward Elgar’s symphonic works, dances and suites, also anchors the action firmly in the Edwardian Britain of Barrie’s play.
The costumes, designed by Broadway award-winner Jeanne Button, are equally fanciful, but in a bold and witty manner, avoiding more traditional interpretations. Masks and wigs are used for many of the character roles, stylistically separating adult from child, while the fairies and Tinkerbell, in bronze leotards with fishtailed skirts, have green lipstick (and wigs) that match the costumes' embellishments.
McIntyre’s choreography also distinguishes each of the characters. The grown-ups (Mr and Mrs Darling and maid Liza) show the restrained almost robotic demeanour of the Edwardian English with stiff and angular styled movement. This is in sharp contrast to the more fluid and natural movement of the children and various inhabitants of Neverland, where Redskins, pirates, lost boys, mermaids and the essential crocodile all add mischief and mayhem to the mix.
Camilo Ramos, as the free-spirited character of Peter Pan, was a perfect foil to Yanela Piñera’s charming Wendy. Charismatic and athletic, his energy dominated the stage, while Piñera captured the flowering maturity of the young Wendy perfectly.
Teri Crilly was a captivating bundle of incessant energy as the young Michael Darling, alongside the more stoic John Darling (Rian Thompson), while Lucy Green was both mischievous and mercurial as Tinkerbell. However, in a departure from the traditional story, disappointingly little was seen of her after the first act.
Lisa Edwards, Vanessa Morelli, Georgia Swan and Victor Estévez as Mermaids and Merman provided the only pure dance moments of the ballet, a beautifully sinuous and fluid interlude (in Act 2), which gives a brief nod to the iconic arabesque grouping of Balanchine’s Apollo.
Captain Hook's entrance raises the comedic levels on stage, matched by the energetic male corps as his pirates. In the role, Vito Bernasconi’s impeccable comic timing, milking the theatricality of pantomime to its limits, made his Hook malevolently delightful. Sporting a single oversized skeletal digit instead of a hook for his left hand, his masterfully timed duet of seduction with Piñera showed comedic finesse.
Technically the ballet went off without a hitch – the spectacular “flying” by Peter Pan and the Darling children appearing effortless. This and other inventive visual effects made both the beginning and the ending to this ballet quite magical.
This Peter Pan cherry picks from the original tale, but also adds additional material, which muddles the plot a little. The demise of Peter, a fourth Darling child not in the original story, who is swept away with the garbage early in the ballet, might refer to the death, at 14, of Barrie’s brother, an oft-suggested catalyst for the Peter Pan story. But the rationale behind the episode is never made clear.
Nevertheless, McIntyre’s Peter Pan is charming. Beautifully performed by the Queensland Ballet artists, it successfully celebrates the child hopefully within us all.
– DENISE RICHARDSON