“Pan, who and what art thou?” asked Captain Hook as he was losing the battle against his greatest adversary.
“I’m youth, I’m joy,” Peter answered, “I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg.”
From 1927 through the mid thirties, however, Peter might also have
included: “I am Jean Forbes-Robertson!” Other than Pauline Chase, who played Peter Pan from 1906 ’til the end of the 1913-14 season, no one else had played Peter Pan year after year to the delight of critics, parents, and their children. There was something magical about Jean’s performances, half fairy and half boy, a Peter Pan that had not been fully exploited since his first year on the stage in 1904 when Nina Boucicault first essayed the part.
Naturally, when the play closed its annual visit in London, much of the company would tour the other cities and counties of England. Sometimes, the star of the London production would join the touring company for a few weeks. Looking at programmes from different periods we will discover Cecilia Loftus, Pauline Chase, Elsa Lanchester, Nova Pilbeam, and Margaret and Julia Lockwood in such places as Brighton, Glasgow, Liverpool, Edinburgh, and Manchester. And while there were flyers and broadsides distributed and hung in these various cities advertising the play and the actress playing Peter. However, when it came to Jean Forbes-Robertson, the management of Gilbert Miller chose to convey that Jean would be visiting that city even if in fact, the actress was not there.
Take, for example, Dinah Sheridan; before Elsa Lanchester could
join the 1936-37 tour, Dinah played Peter Pan. An accomplished young actress, Dinah would play Wendy opposite Lanchester, that is, unless the older actress was ill. While flyers of the period used Dinah’s name for advertising, the stance of the young actress was to emulate that of Jean Forbes-Robertson, seen in this flyer of 1932 for the Hippodrome in Brighton.
FOR COLLECTORS of PETER PAN EPHEMERA Over the next few months I shall be selling Peter Pan
programmes and photographs on Ebay. With my Peter Pan On Stage and Screen book on the market these last six months, there is no longer a need to hold on to the duplicate copies I have acquired over the years. Included this week are the following: a 1906 Cecilia Loftus programme; a 1913 Pauline Chase/Noel Coward programme; a 1916 Unity More programme, an autographed photo postcard of HildaTrevelyan as Peter; and a first season programme from Jean Forbes-Robertson’s reign. I have started their prices considerably lower than others I have seen on Ebay.