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Watermill’s young actors embody the spirit of Peter Pan





Watermill Youth Ensemble: Wendy and Peter Pan at the Watermill, Bagnor, from Saturday, March 23 to Saturday, March 30

Review by TONY TRIGWELL-JONES

Watermill Youth Ensemble Wendy & Peter Pan Pic: Jamie Ledwith
Watermill Youth Ensemble Wendy & Peter Pan Pic: Jamie Ledwith

THE Watermill Theatre’s Youth Ensemble kick-started their Easter holiday with a touching retelling of JM Barrie’s most enduring yarn, Peter Pan.

This sensitive adaptation by Ella Hickson does enough to make the play relevant to contemporary audiences, while maintaining the charm and innocence of the original.

This is perhaps seen clearest in her spirited, sassy Tinkerbell, portrayed playfully by Edith Rayner, who clearly enjoys besting everyone, especially the eponymous heroes Wendy and Peter.

Watermill Youth Ensemble Wendy & Peter Pan Pic: Jamie Ledwith
Watermill Youth Ensemble Wendy & Peter Pan Pic: Jamie Ledwith

The latter is played energetically by Joshua Allen in an interpretation that serves to emphasise Pan’s naivety and recklessness.

While Livi Hodgson skillfully navigates the complexity of Wendy Darling’s conflicted nature, as she contemplates growing up, while maintaining a sense of wide-eyed wonder.

Cara Yeates made for a brilliantly boisterous John, while Peter Lilleystone played Michael’s humour with excellent comic timing.

Hickson’s reimagining of Pan includes a fourth child, Tom, whose tragic passing is the stimulus for Wendy’s adventure in Neverland.

This role is brought to life by Ethan Mearkle-Mist, who does a fine job of balancing pathos and levity. Tom Norris and Ella Wilson do a fine job of being their parents, as well as pirates and other ensemble roles.

Watermill Youth Ensemble Wendy & Peter Pan Pic: Jamie Ledwith
Watermill Youth Ensemble Wendy & Peter Pan Pic: Jamie Ledwith

Millie Davis, Mabel Rayner, Florence Martin, Elizabeth Mearkle-Mist and Lucy Edinborough play at being Lost Boys with infectious enthusiasm. While Alfie Baylis, Isobel Hawkins, Clara Winchester, Catie Turner and Ahri Hirson make for a convincingly rambunctious crew of incompetent pirates.

Their bold leaders (there were two Hooks) both showed exceptional characterisation, Coco Vollenweider combined the perfect mix of villainy and humour, while Ellie Adams played Hook as a signing character – which is no mean feat!

Watermill Youth Ensemble Wendy & Peter Pan Pic: Jamie Ledwith
Watermill Youth Ensemble Wendy & Peter Pan Pic: Jamie Ledwith

While speaking of taking on such challenges, kudos must go to Angharad Arnott Phillips and Heidi Bird, who have directed not one, but two completely separate companies (50 young people, alternating roles) in what is a tender and joyful production.



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