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Welcome to the world of 'Peter Pan'

I became a devoted slave to Peter Pan long before I had the unprecedented luck of actually working with Louis Marks on Andrew Birkin's biographical adaptation for television of the lives of primarily, J M Barrie, and his involvement with the 5 Llewellyn Davis Boys. I remain a devotee and fan of the original work and even have a (5th) First Edition of the book. I watch all the new versions and read biographies and even sequels which have appeared since I worked on 'The Lost Boys' and have opinions on them all which, will become apparent as this page evolves!

The Original

Michael Llewellyb Davis as PP in 1907

Michael as Peter Pan in 1907

Pantomime

The Not-so-Original

Disney's Peter Pan

Peter Pan 1953 Disney animation Film Poster

Disney Sequel Peter Pan 2002

Peter Pan 1953 animation IMDB and the 2002 sequel Return to Neverland IMDB

Finding Neverland - The Film

Finding Neverland Film Poster 2004

The film poster for the 2004 film starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet with support from Dustin Hoffman and Julie Christie - IMDB

Much as I adore Christie she portrayed the du Maurier side of the family in a bad light, the choice of Winslet as Sylvia and Depp as Barrie was a bad mistake too; I have never liked Winslet, far too pretentious and I have stopped liking Depp in recent times, the last interesting film he made was 'The Tourist', regrettably 'Pirates' and 'The Lone Ranger' were more than a little pretentious! I expect Hoffman called in favours as this was his directorial debut as well as appearing in a cameo - I said I would be brutal!

Review : "Finding Neverland" is the story of a man who doesn't want to grow up, and writes the story of a boy who never does. The boy is Peter Pan, and the man is Sir J.M. Barrie, who wrote his famous play after falling under the spell of a widow and her four young boys. That Barrie was married at the time, that he all but ignored his wife, that he all but moved into the widow's home, that his interest in the boys raised little suspicion, would make this story play very differently today. Johnny Depp's performance makes Barrie not only believable, but acceptable. And he does it without evading the implications of his behavior: The movie doesn't inoculate Barrie as a "family friend," but shows him truly and deeply in love with the widow and her boys, although in an asexual way; we wonder, indeed, if this man has ever had sex, or ever wants to.

The movie opens in 1903 in a London theater where Barrie, a Scottish playwright, has seen his latest play turn into a disaster. He needs something new, and quickly, because his impresario (Dustin Hoffman) has a lease on the house and needs to keep it filled. In Kensington Gardens, Barrie happens upon the Davies family: the mother, Sylvia (Kate Winslet), and her boys Peter, George, Jack and Michael. As he watches them at play, a kind of spiritual hunger begins to glow in his eyes. They represent an innocence and purity that strikes him so powerfully he's unable to think of anything else.

He becomes friendly with the family. Sylvia has recently become widowed and is not interested in a new romance, but then, curiously, nothing about Barrie's behavior suggests he's attracted to her in that way. He idealizes her, he obsesses about her boys, and when he talks about his own unhappy childhood we get a glimpse of his motivation; when his older brother died, his parents started calling him by the brother's name, and perhaps he felt he lived his brother's childhood and never had his own.

He plays games with the boys. He wrestles with a big stuffed bear. He leads them in games involving pirates and cowboys and Indians. He dresses in funny costumes. The children like him and Sylvia is grateful for his attention, especially since she has developed an alarming cough and he helps take care of the boys. The only holdout is Peter, played by Freddie Highmore in a remarkable performance; if Barrie never grew up, Peter was perhaps never a child. He is wise and solemn, feels the loss of his father more sharply than his brothers, and boldly tells Barrie: "You're not my father." Nor does Barrie want to be; he wants to be his brother. Sylvia's condition worsens, and when the boys stage a play in the family garden, it's cut short by her coughing. The boys are reassured that nothing serious is wrong, but Peter is sure they're lying to him about her illness: "I won't be made a fool!"

Two other women regard this situation with alarm. Barrie's wife Mary (Radha Mitchell) rarely sees him at home and is understandably disturbed about his relationship with the Davies family, although she is not as angry as she might be; there is the implication that she has long since given up on expecting rational behavior from her husband. He lives in a dream world, and to some degree she understands that. Not as sympathetic is Emma du Maurier (Julie Christie), Sylvia's mother, who as the widow of the famous George du Maurier moved in sophisticated circles and is not amused by a 43-year-old man who wants to become the best playmate of her grandchildren.

It is Barrie's innocence, or naivete, or perhaps even a kind of rapture, impervious to common sense, that steers him past all obstacles as he begins to form the idea of "Peter Pan" in his mind. The boys are his muses. He tries to explain his new play to his impresario, who has just closed one flop, doesn't want to open another, and is less than thrilled about a play involving fairies, pirates, and children who can fly. Depp in his scenes shows Barrie in the grip of a holy zeal, his mind operating on a private, almost trance-like level, as the play comes into focus for him. He knows, if nobody else does, that he is creating a myth that will powerfully involve children. His masterstroke is to invite 25 orphans to the play's opening night and scatter them through the audience, where their laughter and delight stirs the adults to see the magic in the play.

For Depp, "Finding Neverland" is the latest in an extraordinary series of performances. After his Oscar nomination for "Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl" (2003), here is another role that seems destined for nomination. And then think of his work in "Secret Window" (2004), the Stephen King story about the author caught in a nightmare, and his demented CIA agent in "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" (2003), and wait until you see him in "The Libertine," as the depraved and shameless Earl of Rochester. That the flamboyance of his pirate and the debauchery of the Earl could exist in the same actor as the soft-spoken, gentle, inward J.M. Barrie is remarkable. It is commonplace for actors to play widely differing roles, but Depp never makes it feel like a reach; all of these notes seem well within his range.

"Finding Neverland" is, finally, surprisingly moving. The screenplay by David Magee (based on Allan Knee's play) and the direction of Marc Forster ("Monster's Ball") manipulate the facts to get their effect; Sylvia's husband was still alive in the original story, for example, and her illness had not taken hold. But by compressing events, the movie creates for the Barrie character an opportunity for unconditional love. What he feels for the Davies family is disinterested and pure, despite all the appearances. What he feels for his wife remains a mystery, not least to her.

Hook - The 1991 Film

Finding Neverland - The Broadway Musical

Finding Neverland the Musical Poster

Finding Neverland New Broadway Musical

The new Broadway Musical in 2015

Based on the Miramax motion picture by David Magee and the play The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee, Finding Neverland follows the relationship between playwright J. M. Barrie and the family that inspired Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, one of the most beloved stories of all time. Source : Broadway World

FINDING NEVERLAND is Broadway’s biggest new hit and the winner of Broadway.com's Audience Choice Award for BEST MUSICAL! This breathtaking smash “captures the kid-at-heart” (Time Magazine). Vogue cheers, "it’s a must-see you’ll remember for years to come!” Directed by visionary Tony winner Diane Paulus, FINDING NEVERLAND tells the incredible story behind one of the world's most beloved characters: Peter Pan. Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. Spellbound by the boys’ enchanting make-believe adventures, he sets out to write a play that will astound London theatergoers. With a little bit of pixie dust and a lot of faith, Barrie takes this monumental leap, leaving his old world behind for Neverland where nothing is impossible and the wonder of childhood lasts forever. The magic of Barrie’s classic tale springs spectacularly to life in this heartwarming theatrical event. Source : Broward Center

Neverland - 2003

Peter Pan - 1924

1924 Film version Peter Pan

1924 film version Peter Pan

Peter Pan - 1988 (Animation)

Peter Pan - 2003

Peter Pan in Scarlet (the official sequel)

Peter Pan in Scarlet UK edition Peter Pan in Scarlet US edition

Commissioned by GOSH (Great Ormond Street Hospital) l to r British Edition and US Edition - images courtesy of Neverpedia

Source : Great Ormond Street Hospital "Specially commissioned by Great Ormond Street Hospital as the official sequel to Peter Pan, this is a thrilling adventure that you will never forget. Neverland is calling again... Something is wrong in Neverland.  Dreams are leaking out - strangely real dreams, of pirates and mermaids, of warpaint and crocodiles.  For Wendy and the Lost Boys it is a clear signal - Peter Pan needs their help, and so it is time to do the unthinkable and fly to Neverland again.

In 2006, Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean was published after Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity launched the search for a sequel to JM Barrie's timeless classic, Peter Pan.

Peter Pan in Scarlet facts 

Publishers and literary agents worldwide were invited to put forward the names of up to two authors to be considered for the project.

Geraldine McCaughrean was the author chosen from a field of nearly 200 entries from around the world. It is published by Oxford University Press in the UK and McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster) in the US. It has been published in 40 editions worldwide and translated in 37 languages – to date. A fully illustrated edition, abridged for younger children, was published in October 2008 by Oxford University Press with stunning artwork by David Wyatt.

The story of Peter Pan in Scarlet

Set in the 1920s, the new story of Peter Pan in Scarlet offers readers high adventure, dramatic tension and all the swashbuckling, danger and derring-do they can handle. Neverland is calling again… Something is wrong in Neverland. Dreams are leaking out – strangely real dreams of pirates and mermaids, of warpaint and crocodiles. 

For Wendy and the Lost Boys it is a clear signal – Peter Pan needs their help, and so it is time to do the unthinkable and fly to Neverland again. But back in Neverland, everything has changed and the dangers they find there are far beyond their dreams..."

The Guardian Arts Review : Peter Pan in Scarlet
by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by David Wyatt 275pp, Oxford, £12.99

The official sequel to Peter Pan needs to be an exceptional book, and that's exactly what we have in Peter Pan in Scarlet. From the very first page, only the most stony-hearted, dyed-in-the-wool Peter Pan fan could fail to be charmed by Geraldine McCaughrean's lightness of touch, sureness of writing and sparkling imagination. When a proof copy of Peter Pan in Scarlet landed on my desk, I intended to have a quick peek before knuckling down to some writing of my own. As it was, I ended up reading the story from beginning to end.

JM Barrie's original 1904 Peter Pan was a play, which took a further seven years to appear in its definitive book form, Peter and Wendy. McCaughrean was chosen to write the sequel from around 200 submissions of sample chapters and synopses, in a competition devised both for publicity and financial reasons. In the UK, Peter Pan goes out of copyright in 2007 and the royalties that Barrie's creation has generated for the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children will cease overnight. By splitting the royalties for Peter Pan in Scarlet between author and hospital, it's hoped that Pan will continue to help sick children. For this reason alone, it would be understandable if Great Ormond Street had gone for giltzy, mass-market appeal. Instead, they have chosen a more sophisticated and subtle approach: a book of timeless charm. This truly commendable decision was probably made easier by the fact that McCaughrean's submission must have blown even its closest rival out of the water. Books such as this are as rare as fairy dust.

McCaughrean has been quoted as saying that she had to undo a few knots that Barrie had "cast off so very absolutely", but they have been undone very nimbly by a consummate professional. The play originally ended with the Darling children returning from Neverland to their nursery and to bed. Then, one February evening in 1908, an epilogue was performed: "An Afterthought". In it, Wendy has grown up and has a daughter of her own, named Jane. It is Jane, not Wendy, who then flies to Neverland. The epilogue also reveals the fate of the Lost Boys who came back to England with the Darlings, the men they came to be. These adult episodes later made their way into Peter and Wendy, the novel. McCaughrean could have chosen to disregard this afterthought, but instead, she has embraced it, making the Lost Boys the Old Boys and sticking to the careers Barrie gave them ... but she then has to make them boys again, and find a way of returning them to Neverland with Wendy. Judge Tootles somehow ends up a girl in the process, and it movingly transpires that Michael Darling was killed in the first world war (as was the real-life George Llewellyn Davies, the eldest of the brothers to whom Barrie told the original stories). Then there is the matter of Captain Hook, who - as a requirement of the Great Ormond Street competition - is not quite so dead after all.

The book is exciting and funny, with some very dark corners, though less casually violent than its predecessor, and it is all wrapped up in McCaughrean's wonderfully inventive language. The main themes involve clothes making the man - or in this case the boy - and in a very dangerous manner (in a story strand expanded from a paragraph near the close of Barrie's novel); and the fact that, like Holmes and Moriarty, Pan needs Hook and vice versa. Without there being even the faintest whiff of pastiche, McCaughrean has created a sequel so similar in tone and flavour to the original that they make a perfect matching pair. This is an extraordinary achievement.

A question which will, inevitably, be asked is whether this is more an adult than a children's book. The answer depends entirely on how you perceive the original Peter Pan, the two being so inexorably entwined. What McCaughrean has done is nothing short of miraculous. It's enough to make you believe in fairies."

I may have to re-read this to fully review it, but I think I found it tedious the first time around and did not empathise with the characters.

Peter Pan in Scarlet at the New Vic

Stage version Peter Pan in Scarlet a\t the New Vic

Source New Vic : a New Vic Theatre and Oxford Playhouse Production

Based on an original novel by Geraldine McCaughrean. Adapted and directed by Theresa Heskins

The official sequel to J M Barrie’s Peter Pan by the three-time Whitbread Children’s Book Award winner, this awfully big adventure has been adapted for the stage in her trademark all-action style by New Vic Artistic Director, Theresa Heskins. It’s 1929, Wendy and the Lost Boys have all grown up. Then, suddenly, 20 years after they left, they begin to dream of Neverland – of pirates and mermaids, war paint and crocodiles. Something is wrong and Peter Pan needs their help.

So Wendy, John and the Lost Boys put on their children’s clothes and, armed only with fairy dust, fly back to Neverland to join Peter for one last adventure. But everything has changed. And the dangers they meet are beyond their wildest dreams.

Peter Pan in the Park

Peter Pan Goes Wrong

Peter Pan Goes Wrong Radio Times write up

From the Daily Mail :

Wendy Craig was my first Peter Pan. She flew! She actually possessed the power of levitating across the stage.

To a four-year-old, this was irrefutable proof that magic was real, so when later we all had to declare that we believed in fairies, I needed no more convincing. I still remember shouting so hard that I fell off my seat. That was at the Scala Theatre in London, probably in 1968 — certainly not much later, because it burned down the following year. Miss Craig is still going strong. After decades of classic sitcoms such as Butterflies, she is now detective Humphrey Goodman’s aunt on Death In Paradise, and later this month she’ll be loopy Miss Davina Bat in The Worst Witch on CBBC. She ought to be a Dame by now, except that in my heart she’ll always be a Principal Boy. (That’s a panto joke. Oh, please yourselves . . .)

All this means that J.M. Barrie’s play for children, a fixture of the Christmas theatre season since it was first performed in 1904, is a sacred text, and above mockery. So I approached Peter Pan Goes Wrong warily, not at all keen to see it traduced. In fact, this wickedly clever farce by the West End’s Mischief Theatre company didn’t merely respect the original — it expected us to know every line. If you didn’t, you might not have understood why there was a fat man dressed as a St Bernard (that was Nana, the children’s canine nursemaid) or how Captain Hook came to be so afraid of the crocodile.

Plenty of the jokes were aimed at the world of am dram, with its part-time prima donnas and wobbly sets, but mostly this was high-speed slapstick of the slickest order. When Peter lands heavily and gets smacked in the face by a loose plank, there’s no need to understand what point we’ve reached in the story. It’s just funny. And so many people got smacks in the face, or crushed by falling scenery, or set alight, or dropped from a great height, or pushed downstairs, or punched, kicked, throttled and trampled, that once you started giggling you never stopped. It was all done with split-second timing that would have made Buster Keaton proud. Even narrator David Suchet, hamming it up with joy, got flattened — by a runaway pirate ship.

David Suchet with the cast of Peter Pan Goes wrong

Peter Pan Goes wrong cast

The cast on the 'Jolly Roger' - image courtesy & © of the BBC

His little turn, when he stole Captain Hook’s moustache and donned it to become Hercule Poirot, was a shameless bit of scene-stealing — everyone else was suffering GBH for laughs, and he got one with a French accent. Served him right to get run over by the Jolly Roger.

This was a theatre production crammed onto the small screen. However faithfully it was done, the rumbles of that collapsing scenery and the smell of burning greasepaint would be all the funnier live. But it was imaginative, uproarious and wholly unexpected!

Pan - 2015

The Man Who Was Peter Pan

Source : Theatre Workshop

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Page updated : 23rd 2017 (Page still under construction)