From Russ Abott to Nigel Havers

Peter Pan at the Hawth in Crawley this Christmas is the seventh or eighth time Alan Cohen has directed the show.

“The first Peter Pan I did, I wrote it for Russ Abbott years and years ago. It went around the country, and it’s the same script that everybody uses.”

And which they are using now in Crawley (December 9-31; tickets on 01293 553636).

“It’s a great adventure. There is lots of the original story in it. It’s quite spiritual in a way. I don’t mean that in a religious way. I mean it in a humanitarian sense. It’s a really beautiful moving story - a great story that everyone can relate to, a story about not wanting to grow up. It has really got something for the parents who will be thinking about their own childhood.”

And meanwhile, the children in the audience will simply be enjoying a great adventure.

“The whole Peter/Wendy thing is quite astonishing. You have got this pre-pubescent girl suddenly discovering love and sex. She says to Peter at one point ‘Come and sleep over here’. It’s completely innocent. She does not understand. But Peter says ‘I would rather sleep over here, I think’. And it really knocks her back.”

The only person other than himself that Peter cares about is Tinkerbell; otherwise he is completely selfish, the me, me, me of childhood.

Alan admits he has to wipe a tear away at the end every time when Wendy says “Please stay! Please stay!” and Peter just says “We’ll meet again”: “And he just flies away from her! Wendy is left without the boy that she loves. It’s very very moving.

“The whole thing is Wendy’s dream really, her fantasy, and that’s why the characters in her real life become character in the dream. Her father, who is a miserable old man, becomes Captain Hook, the villain.”

The thrill is the strength of the story, one which drags the children in, however much they know it.

“I have done other pantos where you just haven’t got that. I did Robin Hood, and nothing happens in Robin Hood. I had to invent a scene where Robin Hood pulls a sword out of a stone. There was nothing else to do! But with Peter Pan, the children just sit there engrossed.”