SOMETIMES, the weather gods just get their own way, and all the determination of summer touring actors and the stoicism of their audiences goes for naught. Such was the case when Slapstick Picnic planned to return to the wild, wide open spaces of Dorchester’s Maumbury Rings and the wind howled and the rain poured.
And inside we went. The Corn Exchange was full of wet and very excited children and their eager parents on Saturday, and no-one was disappointed. The performers of this ingenious and witty adaptation of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan had been looking forward to returning to the Rings, where, over the years the company has been visiting, it has built up an enviable reputation for witty mayhem (as well as tea and delicious cakes, courtesy of local volunteers). So there was relief all round to discover that the cake-makers and the actors had transferred their wares to the Corn Exchange.
The simple touring set transferred easily indoors, and the three actors laid out their many costumes and props and readied themselves to tell the famous and familiar story. Although Michael Darling is played by a miniscule, bug-eyed glove puppet, all the rest of the main characters get a human face. Hopefully there is no envy among the trio, because Lucy Green does get the best outfits, from the extravagantly and very pinkly foppish Captain Hook to the full-bottomed Nana.
William Ross-Fawcett is the irrepressible Peter, and it’s all about him – did I detect just a hint of Borisism in his rallying cry “Oh, the cleverness of ME.”? This was balanced by his charmingly concerned Mrs Darling.
Charlotte Driessler delighted in the gobbledegook of Tinkerbell, the pathos of Tootles, the blind adoration of Smee, and the sexism of Mr Darling.
Directed by Nel Crouch with cleverly chosen songs, under the direction of Zoe Milton and wonderfully synchronised movement, directed by Jen Fletcher, this show really does have something for all ages, involving the younger members of the audience in silly pranks and energetic movement, and throwing in just enough things to think about. There is also some culinary genius in here – from Monica’s 20 minute recipes to a wonderful analogy between a mother and an air fryer. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and very clever, full of ideas that work and telling the story with affection and wry insight.
Slapstick Picnic is an offshoot of the cycling players The Handlebards, incredibly celebrating their tenth anniversary, and both companies are on the road throughout the summer, hoping for better weather than Saturday 22nd July brought. Catch them if you can. You’ll be delighted you made the effort.
Photographs by Tom Dixon.