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ROLEPLAY: BBC RADIO 4 UNLOCKS THE ALLURE OF PLAYING PETER PAN

Revealing insights from those who've played the boy who wouldn't grow up


Roleplay is a BBC Radio 4 series. Here’s the synopsis:


One big dramatic role and stories of actors from across the world who have all played the same part. They tell us what the role means and what it means to them.


The programme recently featured the role of Peter Pan and is well worth listening to with a cup of tea.


The BBC again:


We hear how the magic of playing Peter Pan has changed the lives of actors. The role lets performers explore their inner child, play with gender and fly across the stage.


THANKFULLY, THERE'S LONELINESS. ABANDONMENT. AND DEATH TOO.


That’s of course true, but it is gratifying to read in the synopsis also that...


...there is a dark side of being the boy who never grows up. Themes of loneliness, abandonment and death are core parts of J.M. Barrie’s story.


Perhaps crystallising this truth is the unhappy tale of Bobby Driscoll.

Bobby Driscoll: the voice of Disney's Peter Pan.


Recounted in the show is Driscoll’s flight from the voice of Disney’s Pan in 1953 to his fall as a doomed heroin user.


Dead by 1968, and aged just 31, in Roleplay Driscoll’s fate is, perhaps romantically, framed within the Peter Pan theme of never growing up.


Certainly, even a cursory look at the American actor’s Wikipedia’s entry reveals a life packed with punch: formative success with Walt Disney; an elopement with his girlfriend to Mexico; prison followed by parole and, in 1965, becoming a face at Andy Warhol’s revered Factory setup. It all feels like a long way from Neverland.


It’s cheap and lazy to conclude that Driscoll was fated to live fast and die young. But it’s tempting too.


A WORLD OF PAN


Any Pan and J.M. Barrie fan will get a kick out of this edition of the programme which takes us from panto in Great Yarmouth to civil war in Sri Lanka to arenas across the United States.


And anyone interested in the wider idea of exploring a significant role via the experiences of those who have taken it on will find pleasure too. Fellow episodes include Waiting for Godot and Lady Macbeth.


The Peter Pan episode is found here, and it features Charlie Randall, Cathy Rigby, Hayley Mills, Tristan Sturrock, Hiran Abeysekera, Allison Kavey and Lester D. Friedman.


Produced by Sam Grist and Camellia Sinclair for BBC Audio in Bristol

Mixed by Ilse Lademann for BBC Audio in Bristol


'TOO OLD TO BE A CHILD STAR. TOO YOUNG TO TAKE LEADS... '


Returning to Bobby Driscoll, his chaotic life, and what he considered his failure to rise as an actor - 'I was carried on a silver platter—and then dumped into the garbage' - recalls the theme of this song by Morrissey: Little Man, What Now? from the LP Viva Hate (1988).



Little Man, What Now?


An afternoon nostalgia Television show You spoke in silhouette (But they couldn't name you)

Although the panel were Very polite to you But I remembered you From Friday nights 1969 ATV - you murdered every line

Too old to be a child star Too young to take leads Four seasons passed And they AXED you

Nervous juvenile (WON'T SMILE!) What became of you? Did that swift eclipse torture you?

A star at eighteen And then suddenly gone

Down to a few lines In the back page of a teenage annual

Oh but I remembered you I looked up to you


Words by Morrissey - as taken from parent album's text


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