Barrie’s Midsummer reckoning

February 1, 2019 | By | Reply More

Threepenny Theatricals take on JM Barrie’s “Peter Pan for Adults”

Edinburgh amateur company Threepenny Theatricals is stepping up a gear for its second outing as it brings JM Barrie’s Dear Brutus to the Church Hill Theatre for four performances from Thursday 7 Feb 2019.

The play, which Barrie wrote more than a decade after Peter Pan, premiered in October 1917. With the help of a magical wood that only appears on Midsummer Eve Barrie explores the idea of the second chance and the human proclivity for always repeating mistakes.

Mia Oudeh and Larry Weil as Joanna Trout and John Purdie, in the rehearsal room for Dear Brutus. Pic Ross Main

The Threepenny Theatricals company was formed by Fiona Main last year and made a successful debut with Rose Heiney’s Elephants at Assembly Roxy. In her hunt for a followup, Main wanted to emulate its balance of comedy and drama, but with a bigger cast.

She told Æ that the task of scouring contemporary scripts for something suitable was made difficult because many contemporary plays have a political message or political undertones of a kind which she wasn’t looking for.

Her search was ended when a friend who had worked on a recent revival of Dear Brutus sent her to the right place.

Main explains: “With the current political climate and non-stop Brexit in the news, I felt it was only fair to provide theatre-goers with a bit of an escape – and what better way than to tell them a fairy story? This resonates with the original performances of Dear Brutus which, in 1917, were performed as light relief from the horrors of the Great War.”

midsummer

Which does not mean that the play is devoid of bite, without any depths or investigation of the human condition. Far from it. It portrays a group of disparate characters, mysteriously brought together for a house party in the English countryside over midsummer.

Simon Boothroyd and Fiona Main as Will Dearth and Alice Dearth in the rehearsal room for Dear Brutus. Pic Ross Main.

Their host is an old-aged Puck, now going by the name of Lob, and their foray into a magical wood allows Barrie to examine the twists of fate which they have blamed the failure of their lives. A theme which resonates through much of Barrie’s work.

There is a Shakespearean influence too, which doesn’t stop with the deliberate echoes of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The title is a quote from Julius Caesar: ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’

“On the surface, it seems like a nice, gentle, Edwardian comedy with a bit of magic thrown in,” says Main, “but once you delve a little deeper you find darker undertones that echo the conflicts, sadness and intrigue that were going on in Barrie’s own life and in the lives of people around him.

“Barrie himself, in his initial stage directions for the play tells us that the major players in the piece are ‘Darkness and Light’.

humour and fun

“It does have wonderful characters and lots of humour and fun, but these are counterbalanced with very realistic, troubled relationships within a group of people who are all thinking “what if?”

“This is where the main theme of Dear Brutus comes in – the idea of the ‘second chance’, where each of our characters is given the opportunity to explore what might have been if only they’d taken a different turning in life.”

Main adds that while it is not a political play, those who enjoy a political message in their theatre will not have too far a stretch to apply the theme of Dear Brutus to current political affairs. But for her, “it is first and foremost a play about the human condition”.

There is also the issue of bringing a century old script to the modern stage. Lines which might have been innocuous to Edwardian audiences are more innuendo-laden to modern ears, while Edwardian turns of phrase have a tendency to twist in the most convoluted fashion that is not conducive to easy memorising.

It is not particularly helped by Main’s somewhat international cast who hail from Slovakia, France, Northern Ireland, England and the US as well as Scotland.

“Our Texan member of cast has also had his work cut out playing the only cockney in the piece,” admits Main. “He’s trying his hardest not to sound like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins!”

Listing

Dear Brutus
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Thursday 7 – Saturday 9 February 2019
Evenings: 7.30pm, Mat, Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets £15 (£7.50 concessions) from cast members or book online here.

ENDS

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