Peter Pan is one of those magical stories that will always appeal to readers. Everyone can understand that desire to never grow up. Children feel it and grown-ups wish they could go back to that time. What I wouldn’t give to not have responsibilities and concerns. To live on a magical island and fighting pirates. It sounds like a lot more fun than sitting in a weekly meeting having the same conversation over and over again. So, I was delighted to discover that Audible was giving its members a free adaptation of J.M. Barries’ famous play/book for Christmas this year. Especially one with an all-star cast of voice actors. I decided that it was just the thing to snuggle up with yesterday for my audiobook of that week.
I don’t know how I first became aware of the story of Peter Pan. It’s entirely possible that it was read to us as children but it was most probably because of the Disney film. Though, I’m not sure we actually had a copy of it. It was something I remember watching at a friend’s house when we were at a sleepover. But, if I’m honest, my recollections of my childhood are terrible enough and I have almost no memory of the books I read. It’s quite a worrying thing that so many years have just disappeared from my memory. My family talk about going to places on holiday and it’s almost as if they left me behind. I just don’t remember things. But, it’s not like it’s important. The point is, I know the story of Peter Pan. It’s one of those inspired ideas that you know nobody else could have come up with but you also wonder why nobody else came up with it. Like Harry Potter. It’s such a genius idea that you imagine some other author should have had but nobody could have written it the way JK did.
J.M. Barrie’s tale of the boy who never wanted to grow up is one that so many people can sympathise with. Adult life is great in a lot of ways but there’s also a lot of boring stuff. And, when you consider the political situation, the environment, and everything else we’re facing, there’s a lot of things to worry about. It does make me wish I’d been able to run off to a magic island when I was a child so I could have avoided this mess. The Audible dramatisation of the Peter Pan story references topical issues like Brexit. I guess it’s really just a panto at heart. The kind of thing that takes something from the news and translates it for the world of the story. It’s a fun little touch but, if I’m honest, this kind of thing makes me cringe a bit.
Thankfully, there isn’t a great deal of that to deal with and, for the most part, this dramatisation does a good job. It is pretty faithful to the original story but has tweaked it a little. Those tweaks include altering the setting to the Second World War, which is something that works incredibly well. The fact that the Darling children want to escape to Neverland to avoid being evacuated is a really interesting addition. And I’m sure a smarter person would be able to make all sorts of parallels between Captain Hook and Hitler. Or point out that the alliance between Peter’s Lost Boys and Tiger Lily’s Lost Girls is reminiscent of the Allied Forces. But I’m not that smart. I just think the new framing narrative works really well with the traditional story.
It has the added benefit of modernising the story a little. Something that this dramatisation is all about. There is a push to promote the importance of women throughout the story and the changes to Tiger Lily’s character are very welcome. Instead of her being Princess of the Piccaninny tribe, she is the leader of her own group. Not only does this get rid of any horrible racist connotations, but it also presents her as being equal to Peter. Highlighting the stories insistence that women are powerful. The dramatisation also takes the suggestion that Mary Darling, Wendy’s mother, knew Peter from her childhood. Mary has been telling the story of her encounter with Peter Pan to her children for years. They desperately want to meet him so send him a letter. That is what prompts him to turn up. I think it’s a sweet addition that gives an extra dimension to the relationships on show.
All in all, this dramatisation was a good adaptation of the story. It managed to bring the excitement, fun and fear that you would want. The voice actors all did a good job in their roles and were pretty well cast. I wasn’t sure about Rupert Everett’s Captain Hood but I’m going to say it worked. It wasn’t the most villainous we’ve ever seen the character but he certainly had some fun with the role. He also managed to make Hook a more sympathetic and bring in the question of who the bad guy is. It’s a bit of a Frankenstein thing where both Hook and Peter end up looking like dicks because that’s people. It’s a short audiobook and one that won’t really hurt anyone. If you like the story then it’s worth a listen.