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Guest Blog: Evangeline Dickson On DEAR PETER at The Actors Church

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A new play riffing on Peter Pan

Guest Blog: Evangeline Dickson On DEAR PETER at The Actors Church

One of the highlights of my lockdown, along with many people I'm sure, was my double-episode weekly dose of Michaela Coel's revelatory I May Destroy You. If you haven't watched it yet, this is your cue. It is a transcendent, complex, multifaceted dive into the world of Arabella, a writer who is sexually assaulted in the lead-up to a deadline. Coel's script and performance are truly exceptional and I only wish I could watch it for the first time again. A piece of this level of theatrical brilliance was exactly what I needed to inspire me to get back to writing.

But, no. Again, along with many I'm sure, lockdown has not provided the uber-creative platform for me to finish writing a two-hour play, a six-part comedy drama or the next BFI short masterpiece. The reality has been Selling Sunset, tie-dying everything within a two-metre radius, and eating more cheese than I can even bear to think about. This has been frustrating to say the least, as I thought lack of time was the only thing stopping me from actually getting words on a page, when, in reality, a complete shutdown from the rest of the world, as well as your people, can really stop the creative juices flowing.

I started writing Dear Peter in 2018 in the form of scribbles, poems and essays. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received was to write down everything that is making your head full - not for the intention of anyone reading it, but to expel it in whatever form on to a page - and this is where it came from. I have always been interested in the character of Peter Pan, a nomad sprung from the mind of a man who dealt with more loss growing up than any young person should have to, that creates joy from an imagination and world as ridiculous as the one we're currently living in.

Dear Peter started to take shape when my dearest friend and housemate at the time, composer and actor Dylan Wynford, forcefully encouraged me to piece together what I had. I was incredibly anxious about it being too personal and too human, but was assured that these little fragments worked. Dylan hosted a scratch night with his then company Colour and Light Productions at Theatre N16, and I sat in a very dark corner and sobbed the whole way through. Actor and film fanatic Finella Waddilove performed the piece with such truth and passion that I was desperate to add more.

Lexi Clare has hosted a staggeringly varied new work festival called Maiden Speech at the Tristan Bates Theatre for the past three years, and I was over the moon to be selected. To be involved in a festival that represented and gave a voice to artists and theatre makers from EVERY SINGLE continent (minus Antarctica) was the most educational experience, and if it returns, GO! Myself and my powerhouse director Kayla Feldman collated the feedback in early January, fired up to work and get Dear Peter going again.

Then the pandemic hits, work is lost, time is gained, and drive goes out the window - which, on reflection is SO fine. I've seen it dotted around a lot, but no one is expected to be productive in a global pandemic and I definitely wasn't. Fortunately, Michaela Coel and the glorious I May Destroy You fired things up again, and when the call from Iris Theatre came and we had a month, I could not wait to get cracking.

Things are really hard at the moment - financially, politically and mentally. Dear Peter hones in on the joys of childhood, the hardships of growing older, and the strength human beings can muster when the odds are against them. I really think we could all do with a bit of magic and escapism right now.

Dear Peter is part of Iris Theatre's Summer Festival, which runs 14-29 August


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