Peter Pan July 2010

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If – no, better yet: When you go see Peter Pan, try to get a ticket that’s NOT in the first row. I did and I realized I could’ve done better with one further back. That said: that’s basically the only complaint that I have with this marvellous show! Also: hope you see it with a lot of kids in the audience – the way they react to all the action on and off the stage is just a hoot and definitely added to my enjoyment of the show!

Peter Pan – a children’s tale which is so much more than “just” a kid’s tale. It is a show about loss and the psychological developments you undergo while growing up – and yet it also is just a fun show brought to life with love and the heart of a child at Statford’s Avon Theatre’s stage.

The story is told by J.M. Barrie himself – he leads us from scene to scene, while the adventure unfolds onstage – with Peter Pan (Michael Therriault) flying gracefully in and out of windows and to and fro like a professional member of cirque du soleil (which, I heard, has already been giving lessons to actors for other plays). Add to that “mother” Wendy (Sarah Topman) and the pirates and the amazons and the crocodile and the fearsome Captain Hook and the lost boys and the brilliant Newfundland “Nana” (Jay T. Shramek) and you got a tale of adventure and magic that will capture the audience’s hearts in the proverbial heartbeat.  For some of the scenes the Pirates are swarming into the audience much to the delight of the children sitting there.

The pirates’ ship that appears in the last few scenes is just brilliant – as are all stage props – but it doesn’t take away from the performances of the actors who obviously have a lot of fun with and in this play which transports to the audience. It’s a fun show, a great visual feast and everyone should grab a ticket while they’re still available. I enjoyed it tremendously – and I dare say: so will you.

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I also attended a very enlightening lecture on Peter Pan before I caught the show, which shed some light on J.M. Barrie and his life and therefore on the motives he might have had to write a story about a boy who doesn’t want to grow up, even though he is left alone with a bodyless spirit as his only companion. A boy who must not be touched and thinks a kiss is a thimble.

I didn’t know that his older brother died in a skating accident when Barrie himself was just six. Incidentally that also was the time when he more or less stopped growing, staying a child in appearance forever thereafter. As pointed out in the program- the story of Peter Pan is laced with mature overtones straight out of Freud’s casebooks, but written years before Freud’s theories became famous. Barrie himself went the traditional way and married a dancer, but the marriage is said to be never consummated and when his wife “betrayed” him he sued for divorce. Alone again, he befriended five children, the sons of Arthur and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies; children he more or less adopted when first their father, then their mother died within a short time. He showered them with presents, paid for their education and yet couldn’t keep tragedy from them: One died in the first world war, one drowned in Oxford, evidence suggesting it was a suicide pact with another boy, and one threw himself under a tube train to escape the popularity of his unwanted association with the “terrible masterpiece”.

A masterpiece that is in truth a scary story about change and the inability to cope with it, about emasculation and about loss and death.

Peter Pan, who cannot and will not grow up, summons the Lost Boys around him – male children who fell out of their prams and weren’t collected within seven days. Girls don’t fall out of prams, they’re too intelligent for that. His inability to understand what girls who grow older and into women might want from him and his fear of their feelings for him. His only friend therefore the bodyless Tinkerbell, a fairy that lives in a “boudoir” in his hideout. That she loves him, that Tiger Lilly loves him, that Wendy loves him he doesn’t want to know, doesn’t dare to explore. He rather doesn’t grow up at all.

Mr Darling who is unsuccessful in his job and even has to do his wife’s work at home – and who feels very much emasculated by not being able to be the breadwinner.

And finally all the losses: The Darlings losing their children, Hook losing his arm, he Lost Boys losing their mothers, the pirates losing their lives and finally Wendy losing her first love in favor of being a chaste mother to the man she’d rather kiss.

Knowing all that lifts  the cheery children’s tale to a whole new level of perception. So it’s not only a lovely adventure for all the kids and the kid in any grown up but also a very adult piece of intelligent theatre that is brought to life in an amazing way in the Avon theatre. Go, see for yourself!

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