Boyish bildungsroman and lingering love story
By Myron My
Barry Lowe’s The Death of Peter Pan is a tragic and beautiful story of growing up and becoming a man. Set during the 1920’s, it follows the life of Michael Llewelyn-Davies – the adopted (and favourite) son of Peter Pan author, James Barrie – and his chance encounter with fellow student Rupert Buxton.
Kieran McShane and Jordan Armstrong do a flawless job as the two protagonists, Michael and Rupert respectively. Rupert’s arrogance and brashness is a perfect contrast to Michael’s ambivalence and fear of what is happening, and this dynamic ultimately leads to a first kiss, first love and first heartbreak for Michael. There are some strong relationship-defining moments on stage, including the scene at the Parisian whorehouse and Michael’s swimming lesson. The affection and tenderness between the characters has a heartfelt authenticity, and this is mainly due to the talents of these two performers.
The two are supported by a more-than-capable ensemble cast including Sean Paisley Collins as Roger Senhouse, Michael’s flirtatious college friend. Collins is superb in his role: not overdone and revealing a serious and sensitive side that (when it does come to the surface) leaves quite an impact. Similarly, Ian Rooney’s J.M. Barrie is impressive as he plays out the nuances of a man still trying to live in his own Peter Pan moment.
Robert Chuter returns to the Chapel to direct The Death of Peter Pan and his focus on and image of this production is breathtaking. He has put together a very fine cast and crew, including costume designer Elissa Hullah and hair and make-up artist Rebecca Vaughan whose efforts warrant particular mention. The show does use blackouts between scenes and although I am not generally a fan of these visual interruptions, the haunting musical score by Andrew Bishop was able to keep us utterly absorbed in the moment.
The Death of Peter Pan is Australian theatre at its unrivaled best. It’s always a joy to be enveloped by a production that has brought everything so seamlessly together and its effects will still be felt long after having seen it.
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Season: Until 2 June | Wed-Sat 8:00pm, Sun 6:30pm
Tickets: $30 Full | $28 Conc
Bookings: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au or 8290 7000