by Brenda W. Clough
You know when it’s a classic? When it has many lives. There are so many Pride & Prejudice clones, sequels, re-dos, vampirizations, X-rated editions and modernizations that there are web pages to keep track of them..
And Peter Pan is another one. J. M. Barrie himself reworked the material several times, both in print and on the stage. Everyone remembers the musical and TV versions, and we can probably date ourselves by declaring who was the Pan of our time. I am a Mary Martin girl, and I know there’s a Sandy Duncan generation. And do I need to mention Hook, Peter & the Starcatchers, Return to Neverland and all the other riffs on the material? The latest stage iteration of this is Peter Pan 360, now on national tour.
This is a deliciously original version, the story we all know with a heavy dollop of circus thrown in and some wow tech and theater effects. The conceit is staging the production in a specially-made circus tent, equipped with the latest in Foley flying gear and 360-degree projection. These two features are fantastic. The new flying rigs are wonderfully flexible, allowing the acrobatic actors to flip, turn and in general really look like they’re flying. They can also unhitch themselves on stage, without having to dash off to be unhooked. And the 360-degree projectors allow the scenery to fly along with you. Peter and friends zoom through a real London, past Nelson’s statue and under the London Bridge!
The simpler effects are nearly as good. The mermaids hang from sashes while 360 degrees of waves wash past, and the Neverland Bird is perfect. Nana the dog and the ticking crocodile are puppets — I have to include an image of this crocodile, a wheeled construction propelled by two seated actors, because it was just too unbelievably cool.
What isn’t so good, alas! is the drama itself. A good deal of nuance and delicacy is lost in the circus-y setting, and large chunks of plot were jettisoned to keep the work at a length suitable for the young audience. However, Barrie’s masterpiece is tough enough to take it. I went with some friends who had a 3-year old little boy. The kid was terrified by Captain Hook, horrified when it looked like Tinkerbell was going to die, and had the time of his life. He is the 360 generation! It is a perfect show for those of us who will never grow up.
The ebook version of my novel How Like a God is now available from Book View Cafe. And it is available now in an audio book edition which is read by Bronson Pinchot!
My newest novel Speak to Our Desires is out from Book View Café.