Tag Archives: John Woodburn

Peter Pan's Labyrinth

Peter Pan’s Labyrinth

★★★★

The Vaults

PETER PAN’S LABYRINTH at the The Vaults

★★★★

 

Peter Pan's Labyrinth

“Creaky plot apart, Peter Pan’s Labyrinth is loaded with sparkling gifts for the audience.”

 

If The Sleeping Trees are back in town, it must be panto time. Well, sort of. For one thing, we’ve only just climbed out of our Halloween costumes. How lucky for us that The Sleeping Trees’ by now familiar formula of mashing together well loved folk tales, allows us to enjoy November and the holiday season in a whole new way. Putting together Peter Pan with Labyrinth is certainly an eye opening take on two classic favourites. If you are curious to see what happens when Peter Pan actually does grow up, and how he manages to end up trapped in The Goblin King’s Labyrinth, hurry along to the Vaults near Waterloo Station. But don’t take the kids with you this time. Because Peter Pan’s Labyrinth is an adult panto. Besides, who wants to spend time explaining the jokes to the kids when you could be singing and dancing along with Ziggy Stardust instead?

Peter Pan’s Labyrinth is the same kind of unlikely mash up as the Sleeping Trees’ 2020 Moby Dick Whittington. Sadly, the 2022 combo isn’t quite as successful as the earlier production, even though it’s fantastic to see the Trees back on stage instead of in front of the camera. The inventive energy of the performances, the set and costume design (Maeve Black), and effortless rapport with the audience is still there. Sound design (Ben Hales) and Lighting Design (Clancy Flynn) are strong in The Vaults’ rather gloomy setting. Perhaps the plot problem is that Peter Pan’s Labyrinth really is about Peter Pan, and the Labyrinth part of the story mostly functions as a way of bringing on David Bowie in his fabulous wig and costumes. At any rate, Peter seems to spend a long time finding his way out of the Labyrinth, even if it is explained by the fact that he is now middle aged and unable to fly. Not even Kermit the Frog, and random appearances of characters from Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth are of much help to a man who has lost his job, his flat, and the fairy who used to be his best friend. It is left to the Goblin King to take pity on Peter and get him to Neverland in time to stop an unfortunate wedding. You’ve probably guessed by now who gets to be the baby that the King takes as his reward.

Creaky plot apart, Peter Pan’s Labyrinth is loaded with sparkling gifts for the audience. The biggest gift is Dan Wye as Bowie, aka the Goblin King, himself. Wye almost steals the entire show. He’s too smart to play the role as pure drag, however. What we get instead is a very elegant, ironic performance all dressed up as an entertainer who can sing beautifully. It does honour to King Goblin, and it’s just Bowie-like enough to make us remember Ziggy and hope he’s somewhere cool, enjoying Wye’s performance. Wye has some serious competition in the trio of the Sleeping Trees, naturally. James Dunnell-Smith, John Woodburn and Joshua George Smith take on the roles of Wendy, Captain Hook, and Peter — and a whole host of unexpected cameos as well. The usual comedy mayhem ensues, and the audience is invited to join in often.

Peter Pan’s Labyrinth is a fun night out—not for the family perhaps, but the Sleeping Trees also have a family friendly show, Little Red Robin Hood, coming to the Battersea Arts Centre later on in the holiday season. In the meantime, you and your friends will get lots of pleasure from singing along with The Goblin King, and enjoying some fabulously punny cocktails at the bar.

 

Reviewed on 3rd November 2022

by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Alex Brenner

 

 

Top shows reviewed in October 2022:

 

A Single Man | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | October 2022
Barb Jungr Sings Bob Dylan | ★★★★ | Crazy Coqs | October 2022
Hofesh Shecter: Contemporary Dance 2 | ★★★★★ | Battersea Arts Centre | October 2022
Mary | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | October 2022
The Choir Of Man | ★★★★ | Arts Theatre | October 2022
The Solid Life Of Sugar Water | ★★★★★ | Orange Tree Theatre | October 2022
The Two Popes | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | October 2022

 

Click here to read all our latest reviews

 

The Legend Of Moby Dick Whittington

The Legend of Moby Dick Whittington

★★★★★

Online

The Legend Of Moby Dick Whittington

The Legend of Moby Dick Whittington

Online until 5th January via www.thesleepingtrees.co.uk

Reviewed – 30th November 2020

★★★★★

 

“a fabulous family show that will have everyone feeling the holiday spirit”

 

I first saw the work of the Sleeping Trees in 2019, and a good time was had by all who watched their zany take on Goldilocks and the Three Musketeers at the Battersea Arts Centre. It feels good, therefore, to report that even a pandemic can’t stop James Dunnell-Smith, Joshua George Smith, and John Woodburn from performing yet another mashed up panto in 2020. Moby Dick Whittington is a little different, it’s true. For starters the Sleeping Trees had to move into James’ home to perform it. The Company had to film the whole thing so that we could enjoy it in our homes. It’s clearly a notion that mingled inspiration with perspiration. And for parents who are looking for an easy way to tire out the kids on Christmas Eve in exchange for an hour’s extra sleep on Christmas morning, it’s a godsend. Just sit everyone down in front of the TV, mince pies in hand. Be warned, however, that no one will be sitting down for long. Moby Dick Whittington will have the youngsters jumping around and building forts in the living room in no time. As the Trees often say during all the mayhem that ensues — “Sorry, Parents.”

In 2020, the year we’d all like to forget, it’s the turn of Melville’s seafaring classic novel Moby Dick and that perennial panto favourite Dick Whittington to undergo dramatic vivisection. The plot (devised by the Sleeping Trees and Ben Hales) is way too involved to go into here (and anyway, spoilers). Rest assured that there is a happy ending. No whales are massacred in the making of this movie. There is some ingenious updating—for example, Captain Ahab becomes Dr. Jessica Ahab, an intrepid marine biologist. She is hunting the great white whale in the interests of science, naturally. And familiar characters such as Dick Whittington and his Cat are pretty much as we remember them in a more traditional panto. The Sleeping Trees’ arch nemesis King Rat makes his annual appearance. What Santa, Pinocchio, Scrooge and an entrepreneurial barista named Starbuck have to do with the plot — well, you’ll just have to watch Moby Dick Whittington to find out.

The strong points of this show are many, starting with the performers themselves. Relaxed in front of the camera, as opposed to their more frenetic style on stage, the trio pull off their usual quick character and costume changes with aplomb. Shaun Reynolds’ clever filming allows them to do this in “up close and personal” mode as well. A storm at sea is both funny and effective with some nifty hand held camera work. But the real genius of Moby Dick Whittington is the way the Sleeping Trees use multiple locations throughout James’ house. Kudos to director Kerry Frampton for figuring out the logistics. We move from the Christmas Lights ceremony on the staircase to the London sewers in the toilet. (Of course.) A ship at sea, and yes, even the inside of a whale’s belly are deftly created with easily obtained household items in the living room. (And we’re invited to play along.) King Rat and Dick Whittington fight their duel in the kitchen. One of the best moments in the show is meeting the great white whale himself in the bath, and learning how to speak whale. Don’t be surprised if your kids do “try this at home.” “Sorry, parents!”

Moby Dick Whittington is a fabulous family show that will have everyone feeling the holiday spirit. The only problem on the horizon might be the difficulty of coaxing kids back into theatres when they reopen. Why get dressed up to sit still in a theatre, when you could be at home jumping and up down on the sofa chasing a great white whale with bedsheets, a wooden spoon, and some toilet rolls?

 

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Shaun Reynolds

 

The Legend of Moby Dick Whittington

Online until 5th January via www.thesleepingtrees.co.uk

 

Recently reviewed by Dominica:
Revisor | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | March 2020
Sky In The Pie | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
The Revenger’s Tragedy (La Tragedia Del Vendicatore) | ★★★★★ | Barbican | March 2020
The Tempest | ★★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | March 2020
Bird | ★★ | Cockpit Theatre | September 2020
Bread And Circuses | ★★½ | Online | September 2020
Minutes To Midnight | ★★★★ | Online | September 2020
Paradise Lost | ★★★★ | Cockpit Theatre | September 2020
Persephone’s Dream | ★★★ | Online | September 2020
The Trilobite | ★★★★ | Online | September 2020

 

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