Reviewed by Ellen Becker
Christopher Harley’s new play Remembering Pirates takes J.M Barrie’s tale of the Darlings, and thrusts the family into a realistic, dismal future that lay worlds away from Neverland. While both fully-fledged adults, John (Simon London) clings to his older sister Wendy (Emma Palmer), their tight-knit relationship bound up in the mysterious disappearance of their younger brother, Michael.
In the throes of dementia, their ageing father George (Robert Alexander) still holds out hope that little Michael will appear at his window. When George tries to interpret the world without the anchors of memory, Wendy pulls him back to earth, while John steps into George’s reality and runs with it. But his grace with his father belies a darker history, and Wendy so desperately needs John to speak it - even if no one else can ever know.
Production Designer Alicia Clements and Lighting Designer Daniel Barber have created a magnificent set that so seamlessly alternates between the warmth and whimsy of the Darling’s long-lost memories, to the harsh, cold reality of the present. In the final seconds of the play, a virtuosic movement of the stage was accomplished so fast and so flawlessly it almost left the audience winded.
Harley’s thriller spin on Barrie’s classic, mischievous tale is certainly intriguing, but at 50 minutes the play felt like a work in progress with a professional finish, lacking a cohesive structure and so focused on edging closer to the final reveal that it skipped over character and narrative development. London and Palmer are both magnificent under the skilled direction of Iain Sinclair, but the script needs to flesh out their roles as believable beings, or the beautifully executed resolution rings strangely hollow.
Remembering Pirates is playing at the Eternity Playhouse until the 16th October. For times and tickets, click here.
Photos by: Helen White