My first visit to the theatre was to the King’s in Glasgow on a night with a pea-soup fog. It was to see J M Barrie’s still magical Peter Pan. And when it came to the point that Tinkerbelle briefly expires, the mist seemed to seep across the stage. For when Peter asks – where’s Tinkerbelle? A lone child’s voice was heard to whisper through the gloom – She’s dead.
Well if his spark-like fairy did temporarily wane, the fame of Barrie’s play has not. For despite him writing other scripts, it is Peter Pan that still bestrides stages, films and books. Yet some years ago, when visiting the playwright’s childhood home in Kirriemuir here in Scotland, I bought a copy of Peter Pan. And it was only then did I realise how many adult nuances it has. After all, there can be no greater adult temptations than to wish never to grow old; never to lose youth’s courage and never to face the real world.
It is ironic then that a play, quintessentially connected to childhood, can only be fully savoured when the eternal boy Peter has to die and not Tinkerbelle.