Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Expedition Peter Pan – a surreal treatise on the importance of play and the idiocy of too-serious adults (Het Laagland at The MAC until 13 March) #bcf19

Do adults have to eschew playfulness in their pursuit for monetary reward and career progression? Should children fear the day that will come when they must set down their toys, tidy their imaginations into a cupboard, and put childish ways behind them?

Dutch theatre company Het Laagland’s Expedition Peter Pan reveals five grey-suited office-workers haunted by their childhood pleasures. Lego bricks spontaneously appear in one woman’s hand and pockets; another literally has marbles in her mouth (don’t try this at home!); one man sneezes toy knives out of his nose; the others can’t stop finding toy cars or paper airplanes in their office environment.

“I don’t think you understand the seriousness of this situation” says one of the supposedly inflicted suits. But the more they try to suppress these fun memories and behaviour, the more they are teased and tormented by this infant paraphernalia.

The dialogue is fast and furious; the staccato speech broken up with an occasional burst of singing (truly the best performance of out-of-tune harmony singing in the EU!) and a fabulously uplifting song and dance routine to finish.

The school children attending my performance reacted without prompting to challenge one performers’ suggestion that they didn’t contribute to society, retaliating with strong shouts to the contrary. A lovely moment of provocation and reaction. “Grow up, mature and come back when you’ve something to contribute” he chides them with almost Trump-like arrogance.

Thirty or so bedside tables are scattered across the stage, and the audience aged seven and above soon discover the magic contained within and the playful nature of the nightlights sitting atop.

The final third of the show makes obvious the Peter Pan reference in the title after a quick and rather good lesson in the aerodynamics necessary for flight. For each of the well-defined characters, the preoccupation with toys is revealed to have more deep-seated insecurities

Remote controlled furniture, exploding rockets, Miami Vice references (which sail over the heads of the children to the adults in the audience), zombies, and a beautiful journey up into space.

Five skilled physical comics actors deliver a zany and sometimes surreal treatise on the importance of play and the idiocy of adults who take themselves too seriously.

Playing to school groups throughout the day, you can still book tickets to catch Expedition Peter Pan in The MAC on 13 Wednesday at 7pm as part of Belfast Children’s Festival.

Photo credit: Willy Sybesma

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