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Straight On Till Morning Wrapped Canvas

When I was a child in the 1950s and ’60s, my parents took us every Christmas to the Scala Theatre in London to see Peter Pan.  It was an utter joy, whether the inimitable Alastair Sim was playing Mr Darling and Captain Hook or Sylvia Syms or Julia Lockwood was playing Peter.  Occasionally we were taken to see a pantomime but Peter Pan was always on the menu.

J M Barrie’s perennially young hero first appeared on stage in 1904 although the playwright did not put it into book form until 1911. Peter has now enchanted audiences and readers for over a hundred years.  Gerald du Maurier, son of George, the Punch cartoonist and author of Trilby, not to mention father of Daphne, whose classics include  Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek and Jamaica Inn, was the actor who played Hook and Darling in the first production staged at the Duke of York’s in 1904.  Du Maurier could not have been a more appropriate choice to play the good father and the nasty Hook since his sister was Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, the mother whose five sons were those very ‘lost boys’ that had provided Barrie’s inspiration.

Sir Johnston Forbes Robertson Greeting Card

The first Peter was  Nina Boucicault who was the daughter of the actor and playwright Dion Boucicault.  Many actresses have taken the role of Peter over the years, including Zena Dare (1905-1906) and Pauline Chase (1906-1907 & 1914-1915).

Maude Adams played Peter on Broadway in 1905 and continued to play the role on various occasions  during the next decade or so.

Maude Adams as Peter Pan

Maude Adams as Peter Pan 1905 [photo: Wikimedia]

In 1929, J M Barrie donated the royalties accruing from Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital, Bloomsbury, in perpetuity. Barrie was a friend of the hospital’s Chairman, Lord Wemyss, and had already taken an interest in the work when the need for funds prompted him to hand over the royalties. This would have expired in 1987 but special provision was made in the 1988 Copyright Act which means the hospital continues to receive the royalties.  Barrie was adamant that the hospital should never let it be known how much money it received and they never have.

Straight On Till Morning Postage

To create the artwork, I combined a childhood drawing in coloured crayon, which was based on a black & white photograph of Jean Forbes-Robertson, daughter of Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson, as Peter, with various textures. (For British television buffs, she was the mother of actress Joanna van Gysegham.) Created in Photoshop, I made many adjustments by blending, layering and ‘painting’.  Miss Forbes-Robertson played Peter nine times between 1927 and 1938.

Straight On Till Morning iPhone 5 Case

Straight On Till Morning Plaque

Straight On Till Morning Clock

Have you ever tried to fly like The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up?  I used to clamber onto a chest of drawers and launch myself from there.  Sadly, it never worked except in my dreams.  J M Barrie reported that ‘…after the first production I had to add something to the play at the request of parents (who thus showed that they thought me the responsible person) about no one being able to fly until the fairy dust had been blown on him; so many children having gone home and tried it from their beds and needed surgical attention.’

Take care and keep laughing!



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