Peter Pan Complex
SYDNEY: Ralph Myers is opening his third season as Belvoir’s artistic director with a version of Peter Pan adapted by Tommy Murphy, writes Garrett Bithell.
Despite the fact many of us associate the character Peter Pan with the Disney film, the flying boy who never grows up is actually the creation of Scottish novelist and playwright JM Barrie. His original Edwardian fable is something far darker, far stranger and far wilder than Disney would have us believe.
Inspired by both the innate theatricality of Barrie’s work, and the seeming impossibility of staging it in Belvoir’s fly tower-less upstairs space, Ralph Myers is opening his third season as artistic director with a version of Peter Pan adapted by the talents of Tommy Murphy. Myers himself is directing the production.
“It’s a very theatrical story,” Myers tells SX. “It’s basically about people believing in things, and when they believe in them they come true. That’s essentially what you do in the theatre: you go along as a member of the audience and you choose to believe what is patently untrue. And by doing that, you are transported somewhere and your life is enriched. And that’s exactly what happens in this play – this boy comes through the window of an ordinary suburban middle class house and makes them believe things. I love that it’s an analogy for theatre, but i also love that it’s essentially about what children do, which is choose to believe things – they’re really capable of taking great leaps of imagination.”
“What theatre does and what children do is essentially the same thing.”
Many sources assert that the character Peter Pan was based on Barrie’s older brother who died in an ice-skating accident the day before he turned 14. “I think Barrie was a pretty screwed-up guy,” Myers says. “If he was alive today, you suspect there might be a lot of questions asked about the relationships he had with the boys he wrote for. It’s true of Lewis Carroll, it’s true of a lot of those guys – they had at least questionable, if not highly dubious intentions. And yet they write these masterpieces that endure long after their lives, and the lives of the children they wrote them for.”
Myers has assembled an impressive cast of young actors, led by Meyne Wyatt as Peter, Geraldine Hakewill as Wendy, and Charlie Garber as Captain Hook. The production transposes Barrie’s panto into Myers’s own 1980s childhood – think Pirates playing Pictionary, Twister with Tinkerbell, and Lost Boys in leg-warmers. “It’s basically my childhood, or the childhoods of everybody in the show,” he reveals. “It’s a bedroom that anyone of us could have grown up in."
[Image] Meyne Wyatt stars as Peter Pan in a new stage adaptation by Tommy Murphy. Photo: Gary Heery
Belvoir Street upstairs, Until February 10. Bookings at www.belvoir.com.au.