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Peter Pan: The Audio Adventure review - the perfect bedtime story | reviews, news & interviews

Peter Pan: The Audio Adventure review - the perfect bedtime story

Peter Pan: The Audio Adventure review - the perfect bedtime story

Sharon D Clarke and Olivia Colman sparkle in delightful radio play in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital

Tripping along nicely: Peter Pan - The Audio Adventure Great Ormond Street Hospital

The blurb for Peter Pan: The Audio Adventure, Shaun McKenna’s new adaptation of JM Barrie’s classic, tells us, with a hi

The blurb for Peter Pan: The Audio Adventure, Shaun McKenna’s new adaptation of JM Barrie’s classic, tells us, with a hint of firm matronly love, that it is “to be enjoyed with a large cup of cocoa before bed”. Truer words have never been spoken. In four half-hour chapters, director Tobias Deacon and his star-studded cast have created a bedtime treat to rival hot chocolate. 

A lot of that is down to Sharon D Clarke as the Narrator; it’s her Olivier-winning voice we hear first, and what a voice it is. Smooth as warm butter, it guides us to the home of the Darlings: Mary (Joanna Riding) and George (Bertie Carvel) are getting ready for a dinner party – remember when you could go to those? – while Wendy (Katie Moore), Michael (George Neilly) and John (Bobby Beynon) run rings around their parents. Disney’s 1953 animated version is surely the best-known, but McKenna’s take on Barrie’s set-pieces, like Peter’s attempts to get his shadow back, are just fresh enough, while still keeping the familiar beats. 

These pre-Neverland scenes are a delight, made so by the Darlings’ interactions with Olivia Colman as their dependable maid, Liza. It’s hard to believe that these snappy exchanges were rehearsed over Zoom and probably not even recorded in the same building. Rejoice, Colman’s Broadchurch accent is back – played slightly more on the comedic side, this time, but still just as good. The whole thing is in the tradition of great audiobooks like the BBC’s serial adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia: great children’s literature given the quality acting it needs to sing. Quite literally, too – the playful flutes and fiddles of Annabelle Brown’s score keep things tripping along nicely. 

The standard dips a little when Carvel, Riding and Colman depart (and bounces back accordingly when they return), but to be fair, most of the actors at this point are young people from Great Ormond Street Hospital, who are clearly having a ball. As is Kenneth Branagh, who’s the least Kenneth Branagh I’ve ever heard him – which is a compliment, by the way. His Captain Hook stays just the right side of over-the-top, rolling his Rs and squawking “Split my infinitives!”. Charlie Cameron’s Peter tends towards the cartoonish, but then again, the Boy Who Never Grew Up isn’t exactly known for hard-hitting realism. Clarke keeps us steady, steering the story through lagoons filled with mermaids and crocodile-infested seas.

The play was cooked up partly to replace the funds the hospital has lost from the absence of seasonal productions of Peter Pan this year, but it’s also a lovely way to spend an evening. Stick it on for your kids, or use them as a convenient excuse. Neverland has never looked so inviting. 

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