Theatre Royal inspired Barrie to write Peter Pan

JM Barrie Theatre Tours big success.
JM Barrie Theatre Tours big success.

Last weekend audiences were treated to a tour of J.M. Barrie’s favourite theatre.

The Theatre Royal, Dumfries, inspired Barrie’s love of the stage and led him to write his most famous of plays, Peter Pan.

Theatre Tours, a fringe event in the Big DoG Children’s Book Festival, was produced by teenagers from the Peter Pan Moat Brae Youth Forum and led by young actors from the Junior Guild of Players.

Members of the cast took family audiences back in time to 1876 to discover a behind-the-scenes perspective on the Theatre Royal through the eyes of 15-year-old Barrie. They also met theatre designer C.J. Phipps and young performers staged an excerpt from Barrie’s first play - Bandelero the Bandit.

Six audiences were given the Tour during the weekend and were entertained with a mix of historical information, a chance to tread the boards on stage, to step into the wings and explore the props stores.

They found out about how the theatre has changed over the years and enjoyed a Peter Pan inspired treasure hunt. The highlight of each tour was the costume department where all the visitors, from toddlers to 80-year-olds, smelled the grease-paint and discovered the actor within them, dressing up and creating all sorts of characters.

J.M. Barrie made a final appearance to finish off the tour, doffing his hat to the audience in the guise of an older man who had grown up to become one of the greatest playwrights of his generation and the creator of legendary play Peter Pan.

This exciting collaboration between Moat Brae and The Theatre Royal was directed and organised by Anna Meldrum. Other Moat Brae events in the festival included a Peter Pan Arts, Crafts and Storytelling afternoon with Anne Errington and The Scribbling Zone with graphic novelists Stref and Fin Cramb.

Moat Brae is the ‘enchanted land’ that provided early inspiration to author Barrie when he spent ‘the happiest days’ of his life as a teenager in 1870s Dumfries. The Birthplace of Peter Pan will soon be restored and transformed into a National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling which is due to open in 2018.