First Impressions: Peter Pan, Duke Of York's Theatre (1904)
Friday 28 November 2008
Two ideas underlie Mr Barrie's delightful new fantasy, Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up – the child's passion for make-believe, and the average little girl's maternal instinct. Harping on these two strings, the playwright himself makes-believe unflaggingly in an artfully artless, go-as-you-please play which has all the pretty inconsequence of an imaginative child's improvisation, all the wild extravagance of a youngster's dream. Like Moira Lonely, the latest Barrie heroine – Wendy Darling – loves "mothering" people, and so quickly accepts her mysterious boy-visitor's invitation to quit her comfortable nursery and tend the lost little lads who live motherless in Never Never Never Land.
There, in a glorious underground home, Wendy and Peter imitate grown-up parents; there, thanks to Mr Barrie's intuition, all the romantic fancies of youthful brains about friendly redskins and villainous pirates are thrillingly materialised; till Peter's band, unlike their gallant captain, yearn for their mothers' arms, and in childhood's beautiful confidence creep back home. Four of his interpreters must gladden Mr Barrie's heart: Miss Nina Boucicault, who is just the Peter of his conceiving, earnest with all a boy's intensity at his play; Mr [Gerald] Du Maurier, equally charming as penitent father and truculent pirate; Miss Dorothea Baird, a beautiful young mother; and, above all, Miss Hilda Trevelyan, whose Wendy, in speech, carriage, and gentle gravity, is the perfection of girlish naturalness.
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