Independent Theatre’s Peter and Alice

Cast of Independent Theatre's Peter and Alice. Photo by David Wilson.jpg
Cast of Independent Theatre’s Peter and Alice. Photo by David Wilson.

Two iconic characters, Peter Pan and Alice (of Wonderland and Looking Glass fame) were both based on real children by their respective authors, J.M.Barrie and Lewis Carroll. The prototypes for the two actually met as adults in June, 1932. This meeting is the inspiration for a new play by John Logan, whose particular links with the Independent Theatre Co. inspired this Australian Premiere performance.

Logan surmises how the mature Alice and Peter may have struggled with their fame and its effects, getting caught up in their dreams and the traps of their well-known stories.

The focus of the play, and the central irony, especially as far as Peter is concerned is enunciated quite early in the piece as he asserts that getting old is the one thing that is irrefutable. From then on the themes of ageing, maturing, and growing up, together with powerlessness, denial, love and illusion recur throughout.

[pull_left]Peter and Alice is a good idea with an interesting surmise and an adventurous choice[/pull_left]

Alice Hargreaves (Pam O’Grady) and Peter Llewelyn Davies (Will Cox) are shadowed by their childhood alter egos as we are taken in and out of the present in their imaginations and memories, at times accompanied in 1950’s movies style with background music which ranges from Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain to Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, to the Mendelssohn Wedding March and Vera Lyn songs. The presence of the authors Lewis Carroll (Dominic Panuccio) and J.M Barrie (David Roach) adds weight to their reveries.

The set (by Director Rob Croser and David Roach) uses scrim to good effect as the memories awaken and the bookshop room is transformed into Wonderland/Neverland. The seasoned Pam O’Grady as Alice Hargreaves gives a fine and convincing performance, switching seamlessly between being an old lady and a young girl, and is sweetly shadowed by Emma Bleby as the young Alice. (But why was she dressed as Walt Disney’s realisation rather than the original?)

Will Cox gives life to the agonising struggles of Peter Llwewlyn Davies, who was deeply affected by the loss of both parents to cancer, and the tragedies of World War I as well as the disillusionment of adulthood. The young Ben Francis, as Peter Pan gives a fine, energetic and consistently animated and involved performance, and would win my accolade for best actor.

The play struggles with its genre as principally a philosophical treatise, and is as a result, considerably wordy, which risks making it drag at times. This tendency is not aided by some stylised and even trite movements and theatrics. But there is no shortage of intellectual challenge, including the possibility that the relationships between these two famous authors and the children who inspired them may perhaps have been an improper attachment, or was it purely legitimate devotion in both cases?

Peter and Alice is a good idea and an interesting surmise and an adventurous choice.

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