““To die will be an awfully big adventure…”
I don’t like reading plays. Plays are meant to be performed. Have you ever tried reading Shakespeare without the performance to bring the words to life? It’s rubbish. So my heart sank with the realisation that I was going to have to read Peter Pan for work. Happily, Peter Pan actually has loads going for it. Firstly, the stage directions are so long and detailed that parts of the play actually end up reading like prose fiction which means that parts of Peter Pan don’t feel like a play at all. Secondly, the play is actually loads darker than any of the other adaptations I have seen. There are big hints that the boy who wouldn’t grow up is actually desperately unhappy. Towards the end of the play it is revealed that Tinkerbell is dead and that Peter doesn’t even remember her; or his nemesis Captain Hook for that matter. It’s all quite sad. Lastly, J.M. Barrie’s most famous work is also blessedly short. All these things together meant that I enjoyed Peter Pan a lot more than I thought I was going to. I was so enthusiastic about it in fact that I am now going to watch Hook, a film that I have bizarrely never seen.
I suppose reading and enjoying this play has taught me that I shouldn’t just write off entire branches of literature, or indeed film or music, without properly experiencing it first. Maybe Reggae doesn’t all sound the same. Maybe James Bond films aren’t preposterous, misogynistic nonsense. Maybe domestic noir isn’t terribly written characters shrieking insanely into the wind. Or maybe all of the above is true. Who knows?
Anyway, I digress. Basically Peter Pan is really well written, it is interesting and weird and funny and it is easy to see why this story has endured and is still beloved by children the world over. J.M. Barrie has crafted a world and created a character that has now become timeless. Not just on the page but off it too. Only a handful of writers can claim to have done the same.