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The Man Who Was Peter Pan at Old Mill Theatre

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Australian premiere: the man behind Peter Pan
The Man Who Was Peter Pan, Old Mill Theatre, JM Barrie, play, performing arts, stage, Australian premiere, Finding Neverland
Gino Cataldo plays author JM Barrie in the Australian premiere of The Man Who Was Peter Pan. Picture: Rosalyn Anderson


An Australian premiere comes to the Old Mill Theatre this November. Written by Allan Knee and directed by Sarah Christiner, The Man Who Was Peter Pan was the basis for the Oscar-winning film Finding Neverland starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet.

The play tells the story of how JM Barrie was inspired to write the classic tale of Peter Pan after meeting four brothers, and their mother, in London's Kensington Gardens one day. It dramatically changes his life and the show explores his evolving relationships with the boys as they grow into young manhood.

The Man Who Was Peter Pan, Old Mill Theatre, JM Barrie, play, performing arts, stage, Australian premiere, Finding Neverland
The Man Who Was Peter Pan features Jacob Miles, Charlie Young, Alec Fuderer, Anna Head, Gino Cataldo and Michael Nicholls. Picture: Rosalyn Anderson


The mother of the boys died when Peter Pan first hit the London stage and Barrie was appointed co-guardian with their grandmother. "The Man Who Was Peter Pan is a beautifully tragic story, of whimsy and magic, about a man who could not grow up, even though he may have liked to try to," Sarah said.

"It was first produced by New York's The Workshop in 1996 and, on the off-chance they could help me track down a script, I emailed them. Within 24 hours I received a response from the author himself and was sent the script to read and comment on and there have been re-writes since my feedback!"

The Man Who Was Peter Pan, Old Mill Theatre, JM Barrie, play, performing arts, stage, Australian premiere, Finding Neverland
Gino Cataldo plays author JM Barrie in the Australian premiere of The Man Who Was Peter Pan. Picture: Rosalyn Anderson


Involved in theatre since 2003, Sarah has performed in a plethora of productions and has also done extensive tech work and stage-managing, recently extending her love of the performing arts to directing and setting up Life on Hold Productions. In 2018, her company debuted with a production of A Clockwork Orange, followed by Animal Farm and the award-winning The Other Side earlier this year.

"Peter Pan has been my favourite story since I first encountered it at age four or five," Sarah said. "It's been a dream to play Peter on stage but I'm perhaps too old for that now.

The Man Who Was Peter Pan, Old Mill Theatre, JM Barrie, play, performing arts, stage, Australian premiere, Finding Neverland
JM Barrie (Gino Cataldo, centre) was inspired to write Peter Pan after meeting brothers Michael (Charlie Young, left), Peter (Jacob Miles), George (Michael Nicholls) and Jack (Alec Fuderer). Picture: Rosalyn Anderson

"When Finding Neverland came out in 2004, I quickly found out it had been inspired by The Man who was Peter Pan. I was in high school then but tucked this fact away and recalled it when I was first thinking about plays to direct in 2014, so it's been a work-in-progress over the past five years.

"This story means a lot to me and I'm delighted to have such a strong team working with me to bring it to life. I hope Mr Knee would be pleased with our interpretation and efforts."

The Man Who Was Peter Pan, Old Mill Theatre, JM Barrie, play, performing arts, stage, Australian premiere, Finding Neverland
The Llewelyn Davies brothers (Jacob Miles, left, Alec Fuderer, Michael Nicholls and Charlie Young) are an integral part of The Man Who Was Peter Pan story. Picture: Rosalyn Anderson


Jacob Miles plays Peter Llewellyn Davies, a sad, misunderstood child who wants nothing more than to be a writer. "He's quick to defend himself and wants to fight the world he challenges everything and has a wild imagination," he said.

"After the death of his mother, Peter grows distant to his brothers and resents his new guardian. His loses everyone he loves and cares about and, by the end of the play, is left alone with the man whom he believed ruined his life.

The Man Who Was Peter Pan, Old Mill Theatre, JM Barrie, play, performing arts, stage, Australian premiere, Finding Neverland
JM Barrie (Gino Cataldo, right) with Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Anna Head), the mother of the boys who inspired the Peter Pan story. Picture: Rosalyn Anderson

"But Peter comes to realise it wasn't his guardian's fault and forgives him. The main challenge is conveying the character's ageing and quickly flipping his emotions in certain scenes."

Acting for the past eight years, Jacob has performed with the Helen O'Grady Drama Academy, Perth Youth, Limelight, Mermaid and Snapshot Youth Theatres, Platinum Entertainment, ICW Productions and the Stage Door School. He has appeared in various productions, including a Blues Brothers tribute show, Oliver!, Beauty and The Beast, Elf Jr, Camp Rock, Bugsy Malone, Annie, The Lion King Jr, Fame Jr and High School Musical Jr, among many others.

The Man Who Was Peter Pan, Old Mill Theatre, JM Barrie, play, performing arts, stage, Australian premiere, Finding Neverland
Jacob Miles, left, Charlie Young, Michael Nicholls and Alec Fuderer are appearing in the Australian premiere of The Man Who Was Peter Pan. Picture: Rosalyn Anderson


In that time, Jacob has won several best actor awards, as well as best newcomer and most committed. "The Man Who Was Peter Pan appealed because it's something I hadn't really done before and is something that looked enjoyable," he said.

The Man Who Was Peter Pan plays 7.30pm November 1, 2, 6, 8, 9, 13, 14 and 16 with 2pm matinees November 3 and 10. Tickets are $25, $20 concession book at www.trybooking.com/BESZL. The heritage-listed Old Mill Theatre is on the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road, South Perth (opposite the Windsor Hotel and Australia Post).

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Why? While the story of Peter Pan is magical, the story behind its author is even more fascinating especially given it was his own inability to grow up that fired his creative spark.
When: 7.30pm November 1, 2, 6, 8, 9, 13, 14 & 16; 2pm November 3 & 10
Where: Old Mill Theatre, Mends Street, South Perth
Cost: $25, $20 concession
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