Small is beautiful, especially if you embrace theatricality. In a world of CGI, big budget special effects and body doubles, everything is possible on a grand scale. If the willing suspension of disbelief that Coleridge described is an innate human ability, it shouldn’t matter that people are out of the habit of using their imaginations because films spoon-feed us careful imitations of the real world.
Pardon me if I sometimes worry that people may be losing the ability to see without their eyes. Just as a luddite fears technology, I am fearful of realism in film & theatre, worried that the ability to dream can atrophy from neglect. I have a tonic for anyone sharing my fears.
Get thee to Parkdale Peter Pan, a new adaptation of JM Barrie’s timeless classic. While the title implies a local slant to the tale –Parkdale being a district in Toronto—I heard nothing in the adaptation to tie PPP to the Greater Toronto Area other than the talent pool: who are predominantly Torontonian. Directed by Aleksandar Lukac, it’s the latest in a series of works channelling a madcap commedia dell’arte hybrid in such works as Christmas at the Ivanovs and Ivan vs Ivan. The improvisatory element makes for volcanic energy and a genuine edginess guaranteeing that each night is unique.
PPP is a curious project, fronted by Talk is Free Theatre. It’s certainly apt insofar as TIFT bring Barrie (JM Barrie that is) to Barrie (the town on Lake Simcoe) at the Mady Centre, in the centre of town. But it’s not exactly the Peter Pan you saw in Disney or in the broadway musical. PPP is a sophisticated version, a collective creation of the director and the three performers re-inventing the text each night. While I think children are safe seeing it, many of its biggest laughs will go over their heads.
From what I heard the pretence for this undertaking is quite touching. Sandra Purchase, a longtime TIFT supporter and friend passed away just over a year ago. Purchase’s favourite play was apparently Peter Pan, making this project a kind of celebration of her memory. Saturday’s matinee performance included a gathering of some of Purchase’s friends & family in her honour.
When I think of Peter Pan (any version) a few things come to mind:
- The applause for Tinkerbell
- Boys who don’t or won’t grow up
- Adolescence and glimmers of incipient sexuality
- Glimpses of material for psycho-analysis
I think Lukac & company –David Dodsley, Colin Doyle, and Milosh Rodic—do Purchase and Barrie proud. If you believe in theatrical magic, you don’t need the elaborate training wheels of gigantic sets & projections to see fairies or crocodiles or children who can fly. Dodsley, Doyle & Rodic bring complementary gifts to the project, at times resembling the most innocent incarnation of the Peter Pan we’ve come to know, at other times suggesting a post-modern deconstruction of all aspects of the story. The flexibility of the approach allows you to have it all in the same economical package.
Talk is Free Theatre’s Parkdale Peter Pan runs until June 16th at Barrie’s Mady Centre for the Performing Arts.