Flying boys who refuse to grow up. Wayward shadows. Pixie dust. Pirates. A croc with a clock.
Why “Peter Pan”? Rachel Briley, theatre professor and the show’s director, says Peter’s story is a timeless one that appeals to all of us — young and old.
“Peter represents something that we all long for on some level: eternal youth,” Briley says. “In our culture we often romanticize youth, but, in reality, young people are just as complex and full of contradictions as adults. Our cultural construction of the child often limits what children really are and do. Yes — children are free of the responsibilities of adulthood and this does afford them the opportunity to play in ways that we have forgotten — ways that live in our distant memories.”
Peter is playful and, unlike most adults, lives wholly in the present moment, she says. He also encompasses the capacity for cruelty that is the dark side of all of us.
“Peter can be cruel. This capacity to hurt others is something we don’t often like to acknowledge — in ourselves, and especially in our children. But it is part of what it means to be human — and Peter embodies this aspect of our humanity. It frees us then to accept in ourselves and in others all of who we are.”
The spectacle of Pan is amped up in the UNCG production. Actors fly through the use of tracks and pendulums. Nana the dog, the vengeful crocodile, mermaids and a Neverbird appear through the use of puppetry.
Janet Allard, a theatre professor and playwright, adapted the show from J.M. Barrie’s book “Peter and Wendy.” While Allard stayed faithful to the original story, she made a few updates to keep it relevant to today’s audiences, and she streamlined the story to keep it to an hour and 15 minutes.
“I wanted to make it something people coming to see a traditional ‘Peter Pan’ would expect to see while being able to make it my own and tell a new story with it,” she says.
Barrie’s story can be dark at times. “Childhood isn’t easy and children can be fierce, and the story doesn’t shy away from that. We didn’t cut out the darker or more complicated parts of the story.”
At the show’s heart is the love between Peter and Wendy, whom Allard describes as soulmates. Will Peter finally grow up so that he can mature in his relationship with Wendy?
That question aside, she says, the childish Peter is lots of fun. “He’s adventurous, proud and all the amazing things little boys are.”
See Peter in action Nov. 9 and 16, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 10 and 17 at 2 p.m.; Nov. 12-15 at 9:30 a.m.; or Nov. 15 at noon.
Tickets are $15 for adults; $10 for children, seniors, students and groups of 10 or more; and $7 for UNCG students. Call the theatre box office at 336-334-4392 or buy tickets online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/412573.