Any story that was traditionally written for children tends to be meticulously child-proofed within the theatre these days, erasing the darker undertones. We continually mollycoddle our newest and most intuitive minds because we worry, not how the children themselves will be affected by the story, but how the parents footing the bill imagine their children will be affected. It’s refreshing then to see the NTS producing a large-scale production of Peter Pan that avoids the standard Christmas-time-tosh and focuses on the profound depths of the tale that should be appreciated by adults and children alike.
Rewritten by David Greig, J.M. Barrie’s tale of the boy who never grew up has been relocated from Edwardian London to Victorian Edinburgh where Mr. Darling (Cal MacAninch, who is also playing Hook) is working on the construction of the Forth Road Bridge. Olivier award-winning director John Tiffany is known for his aesthetically impressive work and with an aerial choreographer, puppet designer and illusionist on board, one of his biggest (ad)ventures since the success of Black Watch is set to be just as exhilarating.
Over the last year, leading up to the 150th anniversary of the birth of J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan has been performed even more than usual. It’s a tale of multiple layers addressing the endlessly appealing themes of sexuality, love, death and the attraction of youth. Whilst Wendy (Kirsty Mackay) is embracing the early stages of sexual maturity, Peter (Kevin Guthrie) wobbles on the edge – he knows what he wants as a child but he’s beginning to experience the strange sensation of a desire he can’t control. Perhaps part of the appeal of Peter Pan is a sense of nostalgia for the days before sex made everything complicated. On the other hand, whilst Peter fights eagerly against all responsibilities of adulthood, Hook faces his own mortality as the ticking crocodile reminds him of his ever-approaching death. The play focuses on a fear of the future in a number of different contexts opening an unavoidable cascade of questions surrounding it. There are numerous ways in to this enduring tale and it will be interesting to see how the NTS’s much anticipated production brings these to the surface.
Showing at the Festival Thetare from Tue 8 Jun until Sat 12 Jun, then touring