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EDINBURGH (Reuters Life!) - A mop-haired puppet Peter Pan cast his magic over rapt adult audiences as New York's Malibou Mines theater brought a spellbinding interpretation of the boy who never grew up to the Edinburgh International Festival.
Critics from both the Scotsman and Herald newspapers gave Peter and Wendy top, five-star ratings as the world's largest annual festival of the arts headed for its close this weekend.
Scottish author J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan first played on the London stage in 1904, and has enchanted children through the years with the tale of the three Darling family children and their adventures with Peter after flying off from their London nursery to Neverland.
The play was followed by a more sophisticated novel about Peter and Wendy in 1911, a darker study of early childhood growing into adolescence and adulthood. Peter is the boy who never ages, but is also petulant and totally self-centered.
The standout in the Malibou Theater show, which has puppets for the main parts including Peter, the Lost Boys and the pirate Captain Hook in Neverland, is narrator Karen Kandel, who also provides the voices for all the animated cast.
A native New Yorker living in Manhattan, she uses her studies in Tokyo of classical Japanese Noh and the storytelling art of Japan's famed Bunraku puppet theater to marvelous effect.
But the whole cast of puppeteers in hooded cloaks, musicians and singers put in stellar performances, while the set design and stage-craft are equally good.
The Malibou Mines production has been under development for some 13 years, co-created by Liza Lorwin, Julie Archer, Lee Breuer and Johnny Cunningham.
Scotsman critic Joyce McMillan put "the astonishing narrator" Kandel at the heart of "a brilliantly elaborate solo show". She adds that the production's very transience "embodies the essence of the great tale it tells."
Herald critic Neil Cooper said Peter and Wendy "retains a sense of wonder beyond its own impending adolescence".
"Even when Wendy tidies up the toy box of her life, her last heart-breaking game still captivates. Because tonight, at least, she flew.
"More importantly Kandel made us believe -- that alone is something to treasure."
Editing by Steve Addison