The sixth of October marked the opening night of the Victoria College Drama Society (VCDS)’s first production of the 2016-2017 season: J.M. Barrie’s beloved Peter Pan. The classic children’s story was brought to life by director Yimeng Sun in the Emmanuel College quad, starring Allie Sinclair as Peter Pan, Isobel McDonald as Wendy, and Shak Haq as Captain Hook.
Emmanuel College served as the perfect backdrop for the performance. Fairy lights were hung on the branches of the trees surrounding the stage and tea lights in mason jars were placed throughout the audience, transforming the quad into an enchanting set. VCDS provided blankets for seating around the stage as well as homemade apple cider, which both contributed to the cozy atmosphere. Holding the production outside was incredibly visually pleasing and created an intimate ambience that would be difficult to replicate indoors at the Isabel Bader Theatre or Cat’s Eye. The outdoor setting, however, caused an unfortunate issue with the sound, as none of the actors were wearing microphones. Several of them were unable to fully project their voices over the background noises, including wind and sirens, making it difficult to hear the dialogue during some scenes.
The performance was imbued with humour, which was a surprising addition to a story that is considered to be fairly devastating. The attachment of Barrie’s name to the production as the sole writer falsely represents it as being a traditional rendition of the work. Although well received by the audience, the humour would have been more suitable if the costumes and props were at least cohesive, and appropriate for a story written in the Edwardian era. Peter Pan sported a black windbreaker and Chuck Taylor sneakers and Michael (Jasmine Cabanilla) carried around a modern Japanese plush bear. All the while, Mrs. Darling (Lauren Van Klaveren) wore a vintage chiffon gown and 1920s-styled heels, producing a tremendous lack of cohesion. Additionally, this contrast between modern and classical elements did not adequately complement the original score, beautifully composed by Wilfred Moeschter and performed live.
Towards the end of the performance, there were a few scenes that could have been misinterpreted by those who are not entirely familiar with Barrie’s story. The scene during which the Darling children and the Lost Boys are all grown and are saying goodbye to each other was the most unclear. It comes directly after Wendy, John, and Michael are reunited with their parents and the Lost Boys are adopted by the family. Michael was still clutching his plush bear and John was still wearing his captain hat in this scene, making it appear as if no time had passed between the two scenes. The passing of time was only clear once Mrs. Darling shed her robe and placed it on Wendy’s shoulders, a tender detail which produced one of the more emotional moments of the performance.
It’s necessary to note that the cast and crew impressively prepared the show in a mere three weeks, as stated by the executive producers, Rhea Bhatia and Maya Wong, in the playbill. The cast formed a strong collective and worked extremely well together, and each performer was perfect for their role. This was especially true of Shak Haq in the role of Captain Hook, who improvised many of his lines and was even able to work through his hook falling off mid-performance, incorporating the incident into his lines later in the show. Despite a few minor discrepancies, VCDS presented a charming and highly entertaining production, giving students a great deal to look forward to in the upcoming performances this season.