Peter Pan

Liam Steel's staging based on J.M Barrie's swashbuckling adventure flys into The Rep for Christmas.

One night, the headstrong Wendy Darling is visited by a mysterious boy floating outside her window. The mischievous stranger introduces himself as Peter Pan, and after teaching Wendy and her two brothers to fly, invites them on a quest to an enchanted island called Neverland. It is a world of feisty fairies, malevolent mermaids and a raucous gang of abandoned Lost Children.

But a crew of ruthless pirates, led by the dastardly and vengeful Captain Hook, also await in Neverland. Can Wendy, Peter, and his gang unite to win the day as they cross paths and swords with the pirates? And will Wendy and her brothers ever find their way back home?

Nia Gwynne stars as Hook in the reimagined production of Peter Pan at Birmingham Repertory Theatre...

How did your playing Captain Hook at The Rep come about, Nia? 
Like most actors, it started with a phone call from my agent asking me if I was interested in the role and the project. After replying with a definite yes, I then went for an initial audition. I then had what’s called a recall - a further audition - where we read more of the script and had a short sword-fighting session. A few days later, my agent called to say they wanted me to play the part. I said yes. Loudly.

What attracted you to the role?
It’s Captain Hook! What’s not to love?!

How are you hoping to make your interpretation of the character distinctive from others?
I won’t be trying to make it consciously distinctive; it’ll just be me trying to make it make sense in our version of the story. I’m a mother, so that may bring a different flavour to Hook’s relationship to the children in the play - what it means to be a mother or not. Really I’m just trying to concentrate on making my character make sense. It’s great that the part is finally being played by women. JM Barrie wrote it for an actress, but the actor playing Mr Darling had a word and got to play the part instead.

What do you think The Rep’s version of the show will provide for audiences that’s different from any other versions they might have seen?
Where to start? As far as the staging, the techniques used for the flying scenes are thoroughly acrobatic and haven’t been seen at The Rep before. Some of it is like aerial ballet. Breathtaking! We’ve got street dance, rap, and the most kick-ass Wendy and Tinker Bell you’re ever likely to see. They literally kick pirate butt. The design is stunning. In our contemporary version, Neverland is magically created using mundane every-day objects. It creates a world which is both fantastical and weirdly familiar. The result is spooky and hilarious at times. Our Peter and Wendy are rooted in a contemporary world; they’re utterly recognisable as modern children who sound and look like their audience. This gives the story a freshness and vitality that will hopefully resonate with a 2019 Birmingham audience.

Why do you think the story of Peter Pan has been so successful over so long a period of time? 
It’s ultimate fantasy. People fly, there are pirates, fairies, a battle between innocence and evil and a thoroughly nasty baddie. As an adult, I think there are times when you long for the joy and irresponsibility of youth that Peter and the Lost Ones represent. As a child you delight in seeing that portrayed.

Your theatre credits include films like Tolkien and Darkest Hour and stage adaptations of classical works such as Timon Of Athens and Titus Andronicus. If you could perform in only one of those genres for the rest of your acting career, which would you choose and why?
Theatre. I love the discipline, the camaraderie and knowing it’s different every night. Shame the money is terrible.

You trained at RADA. Do you believe that training at an academy or other such prestigious school gives you significant advantages as an actor over performers who’ve entered the profession via a different route? 
It was my only way to get seen and get a foot in the door. I cherish the voice training. I don’t think it’s necessary to go to drama school, but for me, I didn’t know how else to get into the business.

Have you noticed any significant changes in British theatre since you entered the profession?
The most significant change for me is a very recent one. It’s the opening up of casting to include more women and BAME actors. It’s taken a while but hopefully people will see themselves more diversely represented on stage. I bemoan the lack of stories being told about and by working-class voices. That feels like it’s got worse.

If you could make a single change to ‘how things are’ in terms of British theatre, what would it be?
More money for arts organisations outside London.

How will you be spending Christmas Day?
With my partner and our four-and-a-half-year-old son in front of the fire, eating too much and watching Christmas films.

What’s the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received and the one you’re proudest of having given?
My partner always gives me really well-thought-out things - stuff he knows I’ll love. Anything that makes my son excited and my partner happy makes me proud. It’s usually chocolate. Job done.

If you had to spend Christmas Day on a desert island with just one character from Peter Pan, who would you choose and why?
Tinkerbell. She’s lawless; fairies don’t have to abide by the rules. And with a sprinkle of her fairy dust she could teach me to fly.

Peter Pan: Reimagined shows at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre from Saturday 30 November to Sunday 19 January.

on Mon, 02 Dec 2019

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