The boy who refuses to grow up will soon take Wendy and her brothers on an imaginative flight to Neverland

The boy who refuses to grow up will soon take Wendy and her brothers on an imaginative flight to Neverland

Enduring classic takes flight

The boy who refuses to grow up will soon take Wendy and her brothers on an imaginative flight to Neverland, soaring high above the Red Deer College Arts Centre stage.

The boy who refuses to grow up will soon take Wendy and her brothers on an imaginative flight to Neverland, soaring high above the Red Deer College Arts Centre stage.

Young actors from the RDC Theatre Studies’ version of Peter Pan will be “flying,” thanks to a Chicago theatrical stunt company that’s going to make the magic happen — with or without pixie dust.

“Believing is a big part of this story,” said director Thomas Usher, who is tasked with making audience members accept the show’s pirates, mermaids, lost boys, Indians — and, of course, one ticking crocodile — when the play opens on Thursday, Nov. 22.

Peter Pan, written for the stage in 1904, and then as the novel Peter and Wendy in 1911, has endured more than a century of popularity with children and adults. The fanciful story has survived Disney-fication, the Hollywood Steven Spielberg treatment (with a middle-aged Robin Williams in the starring role), and a long-running Broadway musical in which Mary Martin played the boy who never ages well into her late 40s.

Usher believes J.M. Barrie’s story is durable because of its delicate subtext: Wendy, at age 13 or 14, is on the brink of young womanhood and “falls for this mysterious character. . . .

“It’s sweet. Wendy gives him a kiss and really likes him, but he doesn’t want that. Peter Pan doesn’t want to grow up. . . .

“He can’t keep her as his mother, and she can’t have him as something more than a mother,” said Usher, who believes this inner impossibility “brings a bitter-sweetness to the whole tale.”

Like Winnie the Pooh and Mary Poppins, Peter Pan is a product of the Edwardian era and its idealization of childhood. Usher believes the brief period spent in the nursery before boarding school became precious to authors such as Barrie and A.A. Milne, who made succeeding generations also long for their lost innocence.

In keeping with tradition (in the Edwardian era, young actors couldn’t work past 8 p.m. so small women were cast in children’s roles) Peter Pan will be played by a female in this 19-actor production that includes some RDC theatre alumni.

Another actor will play both Mr. Darling, father to Wendy, John and Michael, and the play’s other authority figure — Captain Hook, Peter’s pirate nemesis.

The roles of Mrs. Darling and the plucky kidnapped Indian princess, Tiger Lily, will similarly be played by a single actor.

Usher said this is also traditional, since the dual characters share the same mannerisms, giving the play a dream-like quality — as if the children are associating fantastical Neverland types with familiar people from their real lives.

The dream theme will be strengthened by set designer Colin Winslow, who has a British background and has designed for several other Peter Pan productions.

In this case, Winslow has designed a gabled nursery, complete with dog house for the Darling’s dog Nana (how the dog is portrayed will be a surprise, said Usher). The nursery contains all the elements that the Darling children will later find in Neverland — from the toy pirate ship on the bookshelf to the mermaids and Indians in the wallpaper pattern.

Now about those Indians. . . . The stereotypical Neverland “red-skins,” with their feathered head-dresses, tomahawks and dance around the campfire are probably the only controversial thing about Peter Pan.

“They are stock characters from stories that might live in a child’s imagination,” said Usher. “The kind of Indians that kids pretend to be when they’re playing cowboys and Indians.”

All the same, he noted the young RDC actors would cast an uncomfortable glance at a fellow cast member, who is part aboriginal, whenever the Indian scenes were rehearsed, as if to acknowledge “This isn’t really politically correct.”

But in Barrie’s defence, do his imaginary Indians have to be any less fantastical than his Tinkerbell fairy or his mermaids?

While the author exhibited the typical European attitude towards natives when he wrote the play more than 100 years ago, Usher said he later stressed the fictional nature of his depiction. “Barrie said, ‘These aren’t the Hurons or the Delawares. These are the Piccanninnies.’ ”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

More than 120,000 Albertans have signed up to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the first two days of appointment bookings. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta Health Services apologizes after seniors struggle to book vaccine appointments

The CEO and president of Alberta Health Services is apologizing after seniors… Continue reading

Red Deer’s Kyle Moore, 26, will be a houseguest on Season 9 of Big Brother Canada. (Photo courtesy Big Brother Canada)
Red Deer man will be a houseguest on Big Brother Canada

A Red Deer man will be a houseguest on the upcoming season… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools says that in the absence of additional funds from the provincial government, there was no consideration of using alternate classroom sites in the district. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools launches online engagement process

Red Deer Public schools is seeking community input to help ensure a… Continue reading

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews (34) falls on his knees as he skates around Ottawa Senators defenceman Artem Zub (2) during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday, February 18, 2021. The Maple Leafs will be without star centre Auston Matthews when they take on the Edmonton Oilers Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Toronto star Auston Matthews won’t play as Leafs face Oilers

EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs will be without star centre Auston Matthews… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Wetaskiwin RCMP say a Maskwacis man died after he was struck by a vehicle. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Clare’s Law in Saskatchewan used handful of times; Mounties review their role

REGINA — A first-of-its-kind law in Canada meant to warn those at… Continue reading

The Magpie river in Quebec is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Boreal River MANDATORY CREDIT
Quebec river granted legal rights as part of global ‘personhood’ movement

MONTREAL — With its kilometres of rapids and deep blue waters winding… Continue reading

Thorough sanding of a table top is usually the first step to renewing a finish. Wax contaminants can sometimes still remain on a surface like this after sanding. Cleaning with rubbing alcohol and a rag gets rid of these contaminants without leaving a residue behind. (Photo by Steve Maxwell)
Houseworks: Fixing wood finishes

Q: How can I stop polyurethane from beading up on a mahogany… Continue reading

Most Read