Splinters productions’ four-strong cast deliver Home to Neverland – a window in JM Barrie, a unique take on the author’s life, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh.
This gentle and reverential peek into the world of the Peter Pan author takes us on a journey of stories the group have developed themselves. These stories are new interpretations of Barrie’s stories and musings.
Throughout the production, Home to Neverland is interspersed with exerts from Barrie’s speech to the students as Rector of St Andrew’s University, revealing something of the humour he could only express through his writing.
Act one builds on his boyhood, growing up desperate for the love of his mother while act two alludes to his complex take on love and attachment.
The JM Barrie we know of – a lonely vulnerable character, unable to ever quite depart from his childhood – is not at the fore of this production. It is at pains to represent the strong, self-assured Barrie which is seldom discussed.
There seems to be much more packed into act one, and the actors have less chance to get into a rhythm. But by Act two, the tales are much more engaging, the format is longer and there is a sense that the cast throw themselves into the tales.
At times Splinters’ love of storytelling rather takes over and muddies the message. There are moments when it feels so loosely stitched together that you wonder if you’ve lost the plot. But there isn’t one. This is storytelling after all, and providing that you don’t look for a narrative throughout the play, but instead immerse yourself in each yarn in its own right, you’ll enjoy it.
There is a thread running through the play, a hint of longing and loss infecting everything. There’s a real feeling of the man’s insight that can only be gained from standing on the outside and observing. Barrie’s closing advice of his speech “Courage is the thing. All goes if courage goes” sums it up splendidly.
You don’t quite get a sense of the intense pain he carried with him, but that’s resolutely not where Splinters are coming from.
Until Saturday 11 October.
Review by Cath Hoult
Full details are on the Scottish Storytelling Centre website.
You can catch Home to Neverland – A Window on JM Barrie in Edinburgh, Stranraer, New Galloway, Dumfries, Banchory and Lossiemouth throughout October.