Five years in the making, two years of postponement but my goodness was this show worth waiting for.
Never Never at The Queen’s Theatre, celebrates the 30th year of the QYouth Group and it really does showcase the energy, enthusiasm and commitment the youngsters bring to this group. Written by James Watson – who co-directs – and Andrew Linham this play takes its’ base from Peter Pan and Wendy by J.M.Barrie and transports us to the 1960s. The time of Mods and Rockers and the birth of Pirate Radio; and the action takes place in Southend.
Peter is the leader of the Mods, and on hearing Wendy talking with her brother and sister about their dreams, tells her of his world and the Lost Children. Off they go to Peters’ world where Wendy encounters Tyke, who is rather put out by this newcomer! Trouble ahead!
Meanwhile Captain, who runs the Pirates and the radio station plans to capture and deal with Peter and the Losties. Captain is the epitome of the Rockers, Peter the Mods . Tensions rise as Captain and Peter lock horns and infighting within the groups causes discord. We enter the world of Pirate Radio and the Never Never land where fun is to be had with dancing and a carefree lifestyle.
Plenty of mentions of walking the gang plank and other bloodthirsty ideas are bandied about by the Pirates and their hatred of the Losties.
Wendy’s brother and sister are captured by the Captain and used as ransom to get Peter but it fails. Wendy acts as the voice of reason and brings peace to the warring factions. Well if you know the original you will know that everything works out fine. Hooray!
All this is played out with 180 youngsters, from every ward in the borough, between the ages of 6 to 18 appearing on the stage throughout the show, a masterpiece of direction and production. The quality of the acting, singing and dancing was superb, theatre is in good hands with youngsters like this. It is always difficult to pick people out in such a multi talented cast but for me Isabelle Manley was quite outstanding; her stage presence and her singing were magical. Captain played by Andre Guy was all rough and roguish and very much the Rocker, Sapphire Hagon captured the wistfulness of Wendy perfectly. However as I said, the whole cast were brilliant.
Andrew Linhams music caught the mood of the era with songs reminiscent of the time and the live band enhanced this with great gusto. As a person old enough to remember those days it was heartwarming indeed.
The Directors and production team should all take a bow for the tremendous hard work and patience they have put in. Dealing with pandemics and lockdowns but keeping the energy high must have been difficult but they did it.
Youth theatre is alive and well at the Queen’s – we are lucky.