Monday, 28 July 2014

Review: Peter and Alice by John Logan

Ever since I heard about the play Peter and Alice I've wanted to see it, unfortunately residing in a different continent on the other side of the world intervened with that so I settled on buying the play, which did not disappoint! The play follows Peter Llewelyn Davies and Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the children whom inspired J.M Barries novel, Peter and Wendy and Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The play begins in the back room of the Bumpas bookshop in 1932 where the older Peter and Alice meet, this is a fictional account of their discussion from the effect of 'being' Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. This is a dark and heart breaking play which explores the burden of fame at a young age, the innocence of youth and controversial questions which have constantly surrounded the relationships between the authors and their muses. 

What I found heart wrenching about this play was the cold, harsh truth behind the discussions of Peter Llewelyn Davies and Alice Liddell Hargreaves. How the burden of fame affected them their whole lives, how Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland became their shadows, for example; Peter Llewelyn Davies was only ever known as Peter Pan; "Peter Pan joins the Army", "Peter Pan marries" and even after he committed suicide, "Peter Pan: The Boy Who Never Grew Up Now Dead." Reading about the real life people, Peter and Alice emphasis the burden that was placed on them since their childhoods, as though the only time they were truly happy was as children, or as Peter so eloquently puts it, "I think I know what childhood's for, it's to give us a bank of happy memories against future suffering."

Whilst Peter and Alice are the primary figures in the play J.M Barrie and Lewis Carroll make appearances with the fictional Peter Pan and Alice, creating flash backs pin pointing moments between the authors and their muses. What I found interesting was how they viewed their relationships with the authors when they were children and how naive they would act. As adults looking back Peter declares that they were the authors lives, how as children they were able to merely go on with theirs yet grown men don't go home and move on with their own. How to the grown ups they were indeed flesh and bone, they were real and they could love them and hope to be loved back. This is where it darkens, which is shown in Alice's relationship with Lewis Carroll, with private conversations together and holding back on walks to talk alone. Discussing between themselves, Peter and Alice analyse their characters and conclude that Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland were created out of loneliness, that Barrie and Carroll succeeded in writing down characters who would never age and could never leave them. In the play Logan doesn't go far into the still existing allegations against the authors with regards to possible sexual abuse between the children and themselves but Peter and Alice were quick to squash all the rumours. Instead the play focuses on the unsettling longing of both authors, Carroll's yearning for Alice or Barries dreams of youth and belonging.

When Alice Liddell Hargreaves met Peter Llewelyn Davies at the opening of a Lewis Carroll exhibition in 1932, the original Alice in Wonderland came face to face with the original Peter Pan. In John Logan’s remarkable new play, enchantment and reality collide as this brief encounter lays bare the lives of these two extraordinary characters.

An absolutely amazing play and I hope one day I can see it performed live. A five star review to be sure! I found this play to have a delicate balance of history, fiction and fact with intriguing and compelling discussions about the burdens of youth and fame and the realties of growing up. Painfully beautiful and heartbreaking.

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