Walking into the Polka Theatre is like stepping into Santa’s home. Rocking horses gallop around the foyer and and the Toy Shop is friendly and affordable. There is little modern sheen, rather a well worn warmth that exudes from every corner of the room.
Only children’s theatre allowed. And it’s marvellous.
I knew Peter Pan would be a goodie, but I found myself torn between watching the show and watching my children as they witnessed the magic unfold. This version is set twenty years after WW2 and so we find Peter in a leather jacket and Captain Hook as a teddy boy, and it all works rockingly well. Peter parades and postures – yes, his iconic silhouette remains – and Wendy is fearless and kind. She also teaches Peter to dance and bonds with Princess Tiger-Lilly. The crocodile pops out of the clock – my son’s favourite bit – and the lost boys really do look like young soldiers lost in the field.
There are moments of heartbreak when the Lost Boys discuss memories of their mothers and Peter tells how, when he tried to return home, the window was closed. I knew it was pointless to mention that she didn’t know about Neverland and was possibly heart broken too. That was the grown up in me.
Panto moments pop up as the audience cheer in order to save Tinkerbell and show they still believe in fairies: there were no doubters on our watch. As the cast strolled in from the back of the theatre my husband found himself happily sniffing a lost boot and my son shared a biscuit with a lost boy.
And the sprinkles on top of the cake? The puppetry. Tinkerbell was exquisite, and my little girl – who at first thought the person in black was Peter Pan – quickly accepted the fairy as simply that, a fairy. I loved the mermaids, and, as I often do, I found myself marvelling at the magic and endless possibilities of theatre when it is done well.
The performance was one hour 45 minutes, including a fifteen minute interval (£2 per tub of ice cream). And the timing was perfect. My five year old was riveted but began to get fidgety just before the interval – one vanilla ice cream and a stretch and he was ready for the second half. My seven year old barely moved her eyes away from the stage, even whilst scooping up the cold stuff.
Wonderfully this show goes on until February so there is plenty of time, but I have to admit, it is a magical land to visit on the run up to Christmas.
More details on Peter Pan at the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon here