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Peter Pan – the Director’s Preview

Director Tom Melly introduces his adaptation of the classic tale of the little boy who never grew up, opening on 23 July. Rehearsal photos taken by the cast.

What memories do you have of Peter Pan from when you were a child??

Peter Pan (or Peter Panic, as I generally refer to it) is my second stab at directing, after last year’s Toad of Toad Hall. These two plays form my earliest memories of ‘proper’ theatre, and invoke a Proustian hit of red plush seats, gilt cherubs, the anticipatory thrill of the orchestra warming up, and then the curtain peeling aside to reveal a wonderland.

What made you settle on Peter Pan for the summer show?

It has a fascinating history as Pan almost never happened – it predates the book, and every London producer turned the project down flat. The technical demands alone were both excessive and, in several cases, required non-existent apparatus. In addition, children’s theatre was still a niche curiosity, and a nonsensical story, revolving around flying children and pirates, seemed an unlikely proposition.

However, an American producer somehow saw the potential, and the project took flight. Even then, it wasn’t safe. As the opening night was postponed again and again, rumours spread of sudden rewrites and technical problems everywhere. When the play finally opened, the first-night audience were anticipating an enjoyably epic disaster. Instead, they found themselves enchanted and awed, and the play was an instant hit.

No spoilers of course – but what can we expect from your staging?

You can see why the original producers were nervous. By any standard, it’s an odd thing – a delicate and enchanting confection of spun sugar. Handle it wrongly, and the whole thing falls apart. Like Tinker Bell herself, it only lives as long as you believe in it. Consequently, the production is quirky rather than radical, with the themes, hierarchies and relationships largely left alone – but hopefully with enough surprises to keep you on your toes.

Click images to enlarge.

Peter Pan runs nightly from 23 – 27 July at the Old Fire Station, including a Saturday matinee, and tickets are on sale here.