by John Murphy

You enter by climbing over a child’s bed through a hole in the wall, to find yourself playing cricket in Edwardian England. Later, you might find yourself in a small room knocking back shots of rum with a group of pirates. Then, before you know it, you’re in the middle of a food fight, or dancing cheek to cheek with a perfect stranger. The Guild of Misrule is back in Sheffield.

The York-based theatre company dazzled last year with its version of The Great Gatsby, and its festive follow-up is a similarly immersive experience. Neverland isn’t a re-tread of the Peter Pan story, but more the story of JM Barrie’s famous relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family. As with Gatsby, there’s a main space and several smaller rooms, which are all fantastically detailed thanks to Abigail Screen’s design.

Neverland is the smart alternative to pantomime in Sheffield this year.

The story is partly JM Barrie biography with some Peter Pan elements thrown in – so one minute you’re watching Dominic Allen’s avuncular Barrie try to comfort Peter after his mother’s death, the next minute you’re whisked away to another room to meet the Lost Boys. It’s the sort of production where multiple visits would play dividends, creating a different experience every time you visit.

While it’s obviously a huge amount of fun, Neverland can also be deeply sad, with big themes of loss and mortality writ large. Yet with some beautiful songs, a lot of audience participation and cross-gender casting (all the Llewelyn Davies brothers are played by women), Neverland is the smart alternative to pantomime in Sheffield this year.