By Cheryl Tan, edited by Teo Dawn
“Even though you want to try to, never grow up.”
— J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Having loved the story of Peter Pan all my life, I will admit an inherent bias towards anything to do with the land of dreams found beyond ‘the second star to the right’. The original Peter Pan story itself is a celebration of stories and storytelling, the power of dreams, imagination and the beauty of childhood, during which we listened to stories and believed in them from the bottom of our little hope hearts. Pangdemonium’s third and final production this year echoes just that. It reminds us exactly why staying young or young at heart has both magic and merit. Imagination is empowerment, and Peter and the Starcatcher directed by Tracie Pang joyously screams a celebration of innocence and of the very best of our childhood.
Written by Rick Elice based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Starcatcher was originally produced on Broadway. Pangdemonium’s take on this prequel to the classic story of Peter Pan is a unique one – and, as some would say, uniquely Singaporean. Set in the pirate-rife period of Singapore in the 80s, audiences embark on a thrilling journey following Molly (Carina McWhinnie), a young Starcatcher-in-training who protects her father’s prized possession, ‘starstuff’, from the clutches of the beloved pirate duo, Black Stache (Adrian Pang) and his sidekick, Smee (Benjamin Chow). Along the way she meets three young orphans amongst which is a nameless boy named, well, Boy (Thomas Pang), with whom an unlikely ‘more-than-friend(ship)’ blossoms, and whom we later come to know as Peter Pan.
Together the children discuss what leadership means, subvert gender stereotypes, and explore the radical notion that sometimes there are more important things in this world than saving your own arse, like “saving someone else’s” (they did not even have kindness movements back then, if I may add). While the cast and ensemble was wonderously bursting with energy and entertained audiences in every moment, the characters that stood out for me was the pirate duo, Black Stache and Smee.
Played by Adrian Pang and Benjamin Chow respectively, the villainous, greedy pirate Stache and his clumsy, blur-sotong sidekick Smee were refreshingly idiosyncratic and endearingly eccentric. With the occasional humorous, satirical remark sending the entire audience into uncontrollable laughing fits, Peter entertained every moment. With lighting by James Tan, production design by Philip Englehart, and sound by Ctrl Fre@k, audience are immersed in a colourful version of Neverland. Along with the very talented Joel Nah and Rizal Sanip as music director and musician respectively, Andy Cai’s choreography brings character, dynamism, and life to this production.
My first impression of the set was that it was probably every child’s dream (or at least, mine). It was built as a sophisticated-looking playground (an upgrade from the boring and generic ‘stairs-platform-slide’ build), with ropes and elements for the cast to climb onto, somersault over, and even knee-hang from. Even in the thick of action on stage, I caught little girl inside me staring at the set in wonder. The characters’ world was literally a playground. It struck me as I realised that that was precisely what the world was to us as kids – a playground, in which anything and everything could happen, as long as we were brave enough to imagine it.
Life is a playground. We know it as kids but somewhere along the way, we forget that.
But perhaps that is why we need need books and magic to remind us that that innocence is never lost – it is merely forgotten. Perhaps that is why we need to be reminded of the stories we have loved that have shaped us and taught us all that life could be. And perhaps that is why we need Theatre, which, in the midst of life’s hustle and the hurry, never fails to remind us that what we believed in is still but a star’s reach away. All it takes is a starcatcher, and a little bit of faith, trust, and pixie dust.
Peter and the Starcatcher
Date: 28th September – 20th October 2018
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre
Time: Tuesday – Saturday, 7.30pm / Wednesday & Saturday, 2.30pm / Sunday, 2.30pm
Admission: From $30 (Concessions available. Get your tickets here.)
Photography credit: Bernie Ng