Child's Play: Revisiting the Neverland through grown-up eyes
According to J. M. Barrie, the Neverland is a paradise for children, where they can play all day and never have to grow up. But it must be a horrible thing for a man to be trapped forever in a world run by the uncensored willfulness of children.
The original Peter Pan is all about the fear of growing up. At the start of the play, Wendy is told that , she's going to have to move out of the nursery, which she shares with her younger brothers. And that's the night Peter comes to whisk her off to the Neverland.
The adult vs. children theme runs throughout the play. ("Dark and sinister man!" "Proud and insolent youth!") Traditionally, the actor who plays the children's father, Mr. Darling, onstage, is the same actor who plays Captain Hook—which sort of symbolizes the dark side of growing up!
Obviously, an adult perspective on the Neverland would be very different from a child's. As the idea for Alias Hook began to take shape in my brain, I began to hear Captain James Hook's caustic voice in my head telling me his story in his own words. And I have to say I found his viewpoint refreshingly subversive. This was definitely NOT the Disney version of the Neverland! And that's what I found so interesting—to revisit the magical Neverland from an adult viewpoint.
For source material, I went back to Peter and Wendy, Barrie's 1911 novelization of his famous play, and I was surprised how much darker it is than the play; it's about children but not necessarily for children. The fairies attend orgies, the pirates and Indians slaughter each other to entertain the boys, and a strange, simultaneous adoration and fear of women—specifically, mothers—runs throughout the story.
It also seemed to me that Barrie hardly even scratched the surface of the Neverland he created, with all its complex enchantments. I thought it would be fun to delve beneath that surface and explore what daily life is like for the sisterhood of fairies who guard the place, the society of merfolk in their grotto beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, and the Indian tribes. Let alone all those generations of former Lost Boys and Wendys who never quite fit back into the real world after they've been to the Neverland.
Hook is an adult trapped in this child's paradise, which is as frightening and foreign to him as the grown-up world is to Lost Boys when they have to go back to their real lives. So there were already adult themes in play before I got hold of the story!
My major invention was to add an adult woman into the mix. My new character, Stella Parrish, becomes James Hook's friend and ally, helping him navigate this treacherous world of children and rewrite his own story.
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