Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Peter Pan

I sit in my friend's room wearing her shoes and contemplating how much makeup I could wear to the theatre without being noticed. I am just about to apply a discreet layer of foundation when two thoughts strike me: I could use tinted moisturizer instead. And, woefully, we are not seeing a pantomime this year. Instead, Peter Pan awaits. I mean, I love J.M. Barrie (or, more accurately, J. Depp's portrayal of him in that wonderful film Finding Neverland), but compare this production with Stephen Fry's amazing Old Vic Panto offering of yesteryear and I feel I shall be left wanting. But perhaps I am too hasty in my judgement. I could be pleasantly surprised. Even though the West Yorkshire Playhouse does look rather like a toilet...


As it transpired, it smelt rather like a toilet too. "Welcome to the WYP, the largest public convenience east of the Pennines!" cried the usher. Wiping away his tears he beckoned in our merry band. Despite the malodorous lobby area, the stage and auditorium themselves are excellent and all are afforded relatively good views of the action.

The titular character turned out to be Scottish. And portrayed by a male. I was sure he was supposed to be played by a young woman traditionally. The actor had a damn good voice but if one is playing a forever-young boy without wearing hose one should at least take the trouble to wax. Hook and Smee stole the show. As is traditional, Mr. Darling (the father of the children for any ill-cultured peasants reading) and Hook were the same man.

I find the story of Peter Pan (despite the injection of adequately jovial musical numbers into this production) somewhat tragic really. 'The boy who wouldn't grow up' is supposed to stand for youth, fun and freedom. But he can't allow himself to love, for that is part of growing up, and he is never and never will be kissed. "To die would be an awfully big adventure." What about living Pete? Eh? It seems to me that he isn't free at all. Is Neverland really a prison?

There are some wonderful things about the play. Hot mermaids aside, it is a relevant comment on the astonishing rate at which children seem to grow up. Childhood is a fantastic thing that many young folk (or ought we to call them dudes these days?) seem in a hurry to leave. Pan revels in it, one of his few admirable traits. Wendy, forced to play a maternal role in the lives of the Lost Boys, longs for her own source of motherly support.

My sister and I (24 and 20 respectively) had a heated debate over whether we would want to fly like Superman or Peter Pan: Super fast or gliding gracefully. I pointed out that if Pan could reach the second star on the right he was more than capable of well over super sonic speeds. We almost strayed into violent confrontation (best avoided as she would probably win). As we screamed fondly at each other, I decided that most of us have a share in both worlds. We all grow older, but rarely do we truly grow up.

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