NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, ONT. — A production of Peter Pan at the Shaw and Stratford Festival took an unexpected turn when the audience’s half-hearted applause failed to save the imperiled life of Tinkerbell.
“The cast was phoning it in, and we knew it,” said Justin Ip, age nine. “The actor playing Nana the dog couldn’t scratch her ear with her hind leg, the mermaids dragged themselves along the stage like slugs, and Tootles and Nibs were clearly texting on Apple watches under the cuffs of their costumes, as if we wouldn’t notice.”
When Peter prompted the audience to clap in order to save Tinkerbell’s life, the crowd’s slow, sarcastic applause soon fizzled. The actors looked at each other, shrugged and took the play in an entirely different direction.
“Theatre is a live medium. If something happens, you need to acknowledge it, and ideally, incorporate it,” said director Shawna Mulvaney. “Who hasn’t delighted in an actor’s ad lib prompted by a ringing cell phone? This was like that, except, well, kind of dark for a family show.”
Without Tinkerbell’s assistance, Wendy walked the plank, tumbled off the stage, and drowned, the actor snapping her femur. Captain Hook slashed Peter’s throat, who bled out in a spectacular choking frenzy. Mr. Smee shattered the fourth wall by stomping through the audience, smooshing an egg salad sandwich from his jacket’s pocket into an usher’s face. The play finally ended on Captain Hook and the rest of the pirates capturing, slaughtering, and barbecuing the crocodile.
“What started as a trite retread of an over-programmed and problematic play turned into an inspired exploration of how our supposedly stable reality rests on the thinnest layer separating it from chaos” raved Maria Mendez, age five.
“I’m looking forward to our class trip here next month, “ she continued. “I just hope whoever plays the Porter in Macbeth can make Shakespeare’s 400-year-old topical jokes funny and relevant instead of the usual nonsensical bellowing.”