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The first part is an original review from the Scotsman of the play Peter Pan regarding its debut in London. The second piece concerns a recent charity event for the Greater Ormond Street Hospital.
How The Scotsman reviewed first Peter Pan performance:
MR J M BARRIE’S CHRISTMAS PLAY
LONDON, TUESDAY NIGHT
A BARRIE "first night" is now universally recognised as an event of first-class importance in the theatrical world, and the audience which gathered at the Duke of York’s Theatre was in numbers and brilliance a worthy tribute to the man who in The Admirable Crichton and Little Mary has dramatised ideas, and thereby proved himself a new force on our stage. We always look forward to a new play from him with the hope, almost the conviction, that it will not be only a well-told edition of a trite love story, but a slice from a half-fantastic, half-truthful, and wholly delightful philosophy of life - life looked at, not with the brilliant and critical aloofness of Bernard Shaw, but with a tender, sympathetic humour which brings one at moments very near to tears. And Barrie in fairyland, Barrie analysing the heart of a child and if the story of Peter Pan upon the stage is worthy of the surroundings from which he is taken, the ideal Christmas entertainment has arrived. It is not, perhaps, a philosophy, but as a children’s fairy story it is a continual delight, full of quaint conceits, neat little turns of humour, and charming specimens of Mr Barrie’s genius for devising little pieces of entertaining stage business, with occasionally in its pirates and funny men just enough of the savour of pantomime - he reminds us that it is Christmas time. It ought to be exactly the thing that will appeal to children, and that without sacrificing any of the qualities which should recommend it to even the elderly, if they have anything of the soul of childhood still in them.
Mr Barrie has not added seriously to his laurels, but as he did not intend to, that doesn’t matter.
100 years of the boy who never grew up
ICE sparkled under the feet of London theatre-goers as they arrived outside the Duke of York on the bitterly cold evening of 27 December, 1904. If any slip-up was expected, however, it was to be on the stage.
JM Barrie, born in Kirriemuir, Angus, was nervous about the debut of his play. Originally titled The Great White Father, one of the most celebrated playwrights of the Edwardian age had settled on a new name: Peter Pan Or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.
What we now know as a winning formula of children, pirates and the magic of Neverland had been dismissed by its author, only weeks before its stage debut, as a "dream-child" with little prospect of commercial success. During rehearsals Barrie was informed by a stage-hand, unimpressed by the children flying out of the window, that "the boys in the gallery’ll never stand for it", while Herbert Beerbohm Tree, the London stage’s most successful actor and manager, predicted a catastrophic flop.
Tomorrow evening, the same London theatre will echo once more to the sound of Peter Pan, Wendy and Captain Hook as Simon Callow, Denise Van Outen and Juliet Stevenson join a charity reading for Great Ormond Street Hospital to mark the 100th anniversary. Eight years before his death, Barrie made a gift of the Peter Pan copyright to the hospital, which has since earned millions of pounds.
Next year, the hospital coffers expect a fresh cash injection as a sequel to Peter Pan is due to be published for Christmas 2005. In January, the hospital will unveil the new author chosen by a specially-appointed panel to imagine fresh adventures for the boy who never grew up.
A century after he first took a bow on stage, Peter Pan remains as popular and lucrative as ever. Finding Neverland, the movie starring Johnny Depp as Barrie, is nominated for a clutch of Golden Globes and tipped for Oscar success. Next year, there are plans for at least two new biographies of Barrie. Andrew Birkin, author of JM Barrie and the Lost Boys, said: "Peter Pan is hardly the stereotypical hero. He’s an almost ambivalent character. In early drafts of the play he started as the villain before Captain Hook came in. I also think Barrie came up with a wonderful idea - a boy who decides not to grow up as he doesn’t like what he sees in adults. That speaks to us all."
James Matthew Barrie was born in 1860, the ninth child of a weaver and educated at Dumfries Academy and Edinburgh University. His older brother David died, aged 15, in a skating accident. To ease his mother’s anguish, he wore David’s clothes.
Barrie grew up, but not much - he was just 5ft tall and spent his life believing himself weak and unmasculine. The successful journalist, novelist and playwright was plagued by self-doubt. His marriage to Mary Ansell, an actress, was believed to have never been consummated. Barrie’s explanation was "boys can’t love" and he divorced her in 1909 on the grounds of her adultery. By this time he already had an adopted family. Finding Neverland shows Barrie meeting Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her sons after the death of her husband. In actual fact, Barrie wormed his way into the family while Mr Llewelyn Davies was still alive.
There is no denying the author’s genuine love for the boys whose antics inspired Peter Pan. Barrie later wrote: "I suppose I always knew I made Peter by rubbing the five of you violently together, as savages with two sticks produce a flame. I am sometimes asked who and what Peter is, but that is all he is, the spark I got from you."
Peter Pan first appeared in 1902 in experimental novel The Little White Bird, in which a wealthy bachelor takes a little boy for a walk and tells him the story of Peter Pan.
Barrie’s relationship with the boys could be viewed as suspect, yet Nico, the youngest, said: "Of all the men I have ever known. Barrie was the wittiest and the best company. He was also the least interested in sex. He was an innocent; which is why he could write Peter Pan."
When the New York Post accused Barrie - who died aged 77 in 1937 - of being a paedophile, Andrew Birkin offered to pay $10,000 to Great Ormond Street if anyone could offer evidence to support the suggestion. No-one came forward.
Barrie’s legacy is powerful - his donation of copyright to Great Ormond Street ensured thousands of children, who might otherwise have died, survived. None of this was known on that evening in 1904, but when the curtain came down, the audience erupted into rapturous applause. Successive generations have been captivated by Peter Pan, proving the boy who never grew up really is immortal.
by Andrew Birkin
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