Watching the performance on Monday night I realised just how much Folkestone and the Creative Quarter are going to miss the talented students of the University Centre, when they move over to Canterbury in September.
The Lost Boy was a brilliant modern adaptation of the Peter Pan story - dark, menacing, thought-provoking and, in light of recent news stories, very topical. Quoting the programme, "When a 28-year-old man, who still believes he is 14, joins a group of young boys, Detective Hook and his partner Smee are forced to investigate." From that premise we follow the story of Peter and the Lost Boys, from the slightly disturbing scenes at the start when a bearded man is playing 'pirates' with young boys, to the terrifying climax involving the kidnap of a young girl.
Peter Pan was played with a nicely balanced mixture of innocence, madness and menace by Michael Clark, who along with Lucy Pemble, Nathan Emdon and Anwen Shaw-Penman, wrote and directed the play. His child-like games with The Lost Boys contrasted nicely with his unpleasant attentions towards young Wendy and his insane ramblings with the voice of Tinkerbell in his head (scarily voiced by Michael Davenport). This is a young man who will be a great success, and his future pupils at Brockhill School are very lucky to have such a talented actor as a teacher.
Hook and Smee were played by James Gardener and Gemma Everest, who provided some of the lighter moments in the play. James' pompous incompetence and Gemma's long-suffering annoyance at her boss were well-played and with a light touch, so as not to detract from the over-all seriousness of the subject.
The Lost Boys' energtic performance and stunt fighting (including one 'slow-motion' sequence) was masterful - looking chaotic but was obviously very tightly controlled and choreographed by the director Nathan Emdon.
John and Michael Darling (aka Zip and Zap) were played by UCF's rising comedy stars Jack Blundell and Ben Steele, who also provided the play with some of its other lighter moments, as well as one of its more sinister ones, when they gleefully offered up their sister Wendy as a plaything for their leader Peter. It was in this moment you could see that the pair also have a talent for serious drama as well as comedy - a double double threat to the entertainment world!
James Anglim's Rufio, Peter's second in command, was beautifully played, and watching him begin to question Peter's leadership, you could plainly see the agony of confusion in his face. The fatal fight sequence between him and Peter was another fantastic piece of fight choreography and quite shocking to watch.
The other Lost Boys, George, Edward and Nico (aka Snap, Drip and Boing) were played by Elliot Gardner, Simon Giles and Henry Phillips. They brought, energy, humour, and pathos to their roles, and the scene where they discovered the body of Rufio was a fine balance of sadness and stupidity (there is a danger of going 'over the top' with sorrow and idiocy), when they couldn't understand why their friend wouldn't wake up, and it brought tears to the eyes of the audience.
Rebecca Reeves' portrayal of Wendy was beautifully naive and winsome, and she skillfully showed us the full range of emotions from, love and joy when she first meets Peter, to concern and finally abject terror at the climax of the play. She was a pleasure to watch and will go far in her chosen career.
Supporting roles were played by Sophie Tumber as Lily who drew us a shocking portrait of a young girl driven mad by the insane attentions of Peter. Once again there is a tendency of 'going over the top' when playing a mad person, but Sophie did it with a light touch, leaving the audience to feel grief and sympathy for poor Lily.
Mr and Mrs Darling were played by A J Hardie and Cathy Robinson - they didn't have much to say or do, but they were the firm adult centre around which the mad juvenile action rotated.
This highly talent collection of second- and third-year undergraduates will be the stars of the future, and as I said at the beginning, will be missed in our town once they move on. Well done UCF for giving us another wonderful night at the theatre.
ROBERT GREEN MA, BA (Oxon)