The Magical Elasticity of Peter Pan

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Question: Explore Peter Hollindale’s claim that Peter Pan ‘retains its magical elasticity and its ongoing modernity’ (Reader 2, p.159), with reference to different versions since its original production. Peter Pan – whether as a stage play, a book, a stage musical, a live-action film or a pantomime – has endured for more than a century as arguably the most famous, and certainly most influential, stories for children. First performed in 1904, the fairytale drama has been addressing the ever-changing boundaries between childhood and adulthood ever since. Educationalist and literary critic Peter Hollindale – in A Hundred Years of Peter Pan (Reader 2, p. 159) – asserts that “the play retains its magical elasticity and its ongoing modernity”, or rather that Peter Pan is fantastical and adaptable, and still full of lasting appeal for audiences. In exploring Hollindale’s claim, this essay will consider the original production in December 1904, the 1928 play text, Disney’s 1953 production, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s revolutionary production in 1982, the P.J. Hogan feature film of 2003, and the pantomime tradition. It will consider how Peter Pan as a whole can be regarded as modern, and which aspects of it, as well as looking at how these aspects have been adapted over the years. It will further assess how JM Barrie’s script allows flexibility in terms of constructions of childhood since its initial performance, and look at why Peter Pan is often regarded as a prime example in the genre of the pantomime. At the time of the 1904 premiere at the Duke of York Theatre of Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, Barrie was at the height of his fame and it was heralded as a theatrical extravaganza. It was to be a magical specta... ... middle of paper ... ...95. EA300 DVD 1, no. 12 ‘Peter Pan Caird Nunn’. EA300 DVD 1, no. 13 ‘Peter Pan Disney’. EA300 Study Guide (2009) Milton Keynes, The Open University Hollindale, P. (2009) ‘A Hundred Years of Peter Pan’ in Montgomery, H, and Watson, N. J. (eds) Children’s Literature: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 153-164. Peter Pan, film, directed by P. J. Hogan, USA, Universal Pictures 2003. Rose. J. (2009) ‘Peter Pan and the Spectacle of the Child’ in Montgomery, H. and Watson, N. J. (eds) Children’s Literature: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 145-152. White, D. R. and Tarr, C. A. (2009) ‘Peter Pan and the Pantomime Tradition’ in Montgomery, H. and Watson, N. J. (eds) Children’s Literature: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 164-172.

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