Two shows dominate the centre of this year’s On the Rocks Festival in terms of time and space: King Lear and Peter Pan. When I say space, I am referring to the 220-seated Byre Mainstage, now the hottest venue for a student production to play. Peter Pan appears to be the show, out of the many going up during the Festival, that has edged up onto an On the Rocks pedestal: with the best venue, support from the University of St Andrews 600th Anniversary Fund, university and community involvement, and a spotlight in the OTR press release, this production has set itself a high bar. Just before the spring break, The Tribe was granted access to one of the rehearsals for a look behind-the-scenes.
First off, it cannot be denied that this production is going to be big. The cast and crew total over forty people, and included in the cast are a few local boys from St Leonards, a casting choice which proves beneficial in terms of diversity, effectiveness, wider community involvement and extending the general appeal of the production. Jonathan and Michael are to be played by Guy Wade and George Lorimer respectively, the latter of whom was particularly hyperactive in rehearsal, in the way only children are. Durie certainly has his work cut out for him, but he appeared more than capable of directing the boys, who took criticism on board well, with Lorimer in particular being exceptionally keen to go over scenes repeatedly.
The boys appear to have already built up a great rapport with the student members of the cast. Sebastian Carrington-Howell, who starred as Melchior Gabor in Just So’s production of Spring Awakening last semester, will be playing Captain Hook, and Beth Robertson, who has built up an impressive repertoire of theatre credits throughout the year, will be starring as Peter Pan. At first it may seem unusual casting for a girl to play Pan, but it has often been done throughout the play’s history. Judging by this rehearsal alone, Robertson looks like she will be providing us with an ideal amount of mischief and enthusiasm in the role.
Finished productions, performed onstage for an audience, will often be so slick and professionally done that they seem effortless; watching the rehearsal, I could see just how much thought was going into each movement and line, with frequent input from both director and characters. The relationship between Pan and Jonathan was analysed at some length, and Robertson and Wade adapted their attitudes towards each other appropriately throughout the hour; the movement of Nana (the family dog) was carefully planned; even such details as how the maid should stand were not omitted.
The set designer and costume designer were unavailable for comment on their aspects of the production, so one hopes that both set and costumes will be suitably colourful and imaginative to create the right amount of visual magic for the audience. However, one thing that can be revealed about the staging: wires really will be used to allow the actors to ‘fly’ on stage. After having seen the rehearsal with the dedicated actors and accomplished direction, one feels that Peter Pan certainly does have the potential to fulfil the high expectations surrounding it.
Peter Pan will be playing on the Byre Mainstage on Thursday 21 April, 7pm, and Friday 22 April, 2pm & 7pm.