Peter Pan 360

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We bought tickets to the ThreeSixty production of Peter Pan, currently playing in Tyson’s Corner until August 16.

In preparation, I slotted J.M. Barrie’s novel (written after his play) into bedtime reading. I know there are elements of the story that are not politically correct, but his writing is knowing, even sardonic, and plain delightful.

I don’t know whether you have seen a map of a person’s mind. Doctors sometimes draws maps of other parts of you, and your own map can become intensely interesting, but catch them trying to draw a map of a child’s mind, which is not only confused, but keeps going round all the time. There are zigzag lines on it, just like your temperature on a card, and these are probably roads in the island, for the Neverland is always more or less an island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and caves through which a river runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose. It would be an easy map if that were all, but there is also first day at school, religion, fathers, the round pond, needle-work, murders, hangings, verbs that take the dative, chocolate-pudding day, getting into braces, say ninety-nine threepence for pulling out your tooth yourself, and so on, and either these are part of the island or they are another map showing through, and it is all rather confusing, especially as nothing will stand still.

Our library copy was illustrated by Michael Hague, and his illustrations wonderfully evoke the wildness of Peter and Neverland.

We did NOT watch the Disney movie, though I suspect we will, probably sometime soon.

The ThreeSixty Theatre performance was great! Let me note a couple of things, as a parent. The performance is in a large tent pitched maybe two blocks away from Tysons Corner I. Unless you want to pony up for $25 parking next to the tent, you’ll have to park in the Tysons Corner garage (free) and walk. The tent is nicely air-conditioned. There are restrooms of the portable variety—but of the upscale kind, with running water and whatnot. There is a souvenir stand and a concessions stand, both of which are priced outrageously ($7 for popcorn). There is also quite a lot of youthful ushers and support staff, all of whom were nice, helpful, and understanding.

You will have to pay for your tickets in advance at Ticketmaster. It’s a small theater and a 360 degree stage, so most seating is pretty good, although I’d probably try to avoid, to my squinting eye, what looked like seats behind tech consoles.

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Although upstage center is probably Section C, and we were on the opposite side, in Section F (Row F, Seats 1-4), we still had a wonderful vantage of the performance. (I took a few illicit blurry images).

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The performance itself seemed to hew pretty closely to the original J.M. Barrie play, so the language is a little heightened, which made me glad that we read through the novel first. There’s plenty of spectacle, of course, though, so even youngsters new to the story will find much to be enthralled with; it merely might be a little clearer if you read in advance even an abridged or digested version of the story.

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There’s a lot of novel production touches, like using projected images on the tent to simulate not only setting changes, but movement and flying; having aerialists as mermaids; and using puppetry for Nana, the Never Bird, and the Crocodile.

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The performers all seemed appropriately game and energetic, and even managed to rouse the audience for some interactive bits (“I do believe in fairies!”). I must commend the Lost Boys especially for their athletic acting.

The Tiger Lily problem was a little cringe- but not shudder-worthy in this performance. I don’t think she’s ever referred to as a redskin, and they avoid most of the blatant Native American tropes, but she’s still mostly speechless, with an agency that’s mostly in the service of Peter, and there’s an aura of Orientalist exoticism to her. It’s a tough role to redeem if you’re not given much to go on.

Still, this was all above the head of my 7-year-old son, who just loved the revel of imagination and play that is Peter Pan. My two-year-old daughter, on the other hand, had a hard time with all the loudness, intensity, and visual overstimulation, and asked several times to go to the bathroom, mostly, I think to just get a time-out from the play. I might wait until your child is at least 4 or 5 to bring them to this production. In putting together this blog post, I happened across this other review at TechSavvyMama that also looks helpful.

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In the meantime, I’m going to keep Peter Pan in the conversation at our household, mostly because I am very much looking forward to this:

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