Writing your first play is an incredibly daunting challenge. It feels like one of those tasks that you’ll never quite get around to starting, let alone finishing. Yet somehow it happens. The words fall onto the page and suddenly actors are saying them and whether you’re ready for it or not, the play is out in the world living a life of its own. Then comes an even more daunting task. The second play.
After co-writing Exploding Whale’s first play ‘Heroes’ with my Dad which took on a life of its own, I found myself racking my brain with where to begin for the next show. Being twenty-two, a coming of age story seemed like the natural way to go, with my main inspirations coming from books such as ‘The Catcher in The Rye,’ ‘The Outsiders’ and ‘Tom Sawyer.’ However, there has always been one story that has captured my attention, which lives slightly out of the realms of these books and that is the story of the boy who never grew up. I started scouring J.M Barrie’s ‘Peter Pan’ again and again, looking for all the reasons this boy refused to age and both the joy and the selfishness that accompanies this.
“No one ever gets over the first unfairness.” This quote resonated with me but not necessarily in such a dark way. It’s a fact that as we get older, we experience new things and by no means are they all good. It’s unavoidable that sometimes life gets hard, but the most fantastic part of human nature allows us to change from such events, feeling like we can navigate life a bit better. But not all of us are the same, and not all of us welcome this change. Here is where ‘Let’s Get Lost’ was born.
I knew from the start, I wanted a female protagonist. Why is it only boys who don’t have to grow up? It’s all very well to say girls are too clever to wind up in Neverland, but when I was younger and longed to be a lost boy, that response simply wasn’t good enough. (It still isn’t!) I took inspiration from Wendy’s name, giving us Wez, but this time we would have a girl who doesn’t grow up. We meet her at the start of the play in a rural village, sleeping on her older brother Pete’s grave. She is found by newcomer Alfie who is awkward and not entirely used to making friends. Surprisingly, Wez appears to be quite blasé about her older brother’s death, explaining quite a matter of fact manner that he drowned in the sea six months earlier and his best friend Jamie failed to save him. She even laughs at Alfie’s shock and teases him for it, subverting expectations of how a girl in this situation may behave.
This idea of grief is what propels the story forward and how accepting it links hugely with the acceptance of growing up. Instead of talking about her feelings towards Pete’s death, Wez becomes transfixed with getting revenge on Jamie, who she blames for the incident, insisting that he will understand things better if she can make him feel as bad as she feels, or as close as possible. This in turn unravels a whole new world of information and mystery previously unknown to the characters and throws them deeper into complicated issues that some of them may not be ready to face.
Like Peter Pan, we see Wez struggle to face that she is responsible for the feelings of those around her as well as her own, and that perhaps Pete’s death has affected more than just her. Her tendency is to become self-indulgent and to override her friends’ plans with her own, in an attempt to distract herself. This becomes her most isolating feature, with Alfie, Jamie and her younger friend Pup recognising the patterns in her behaviour and refusing to be on the receiving end. This strikes up the ultimate conflict for Wez. To stay and face what she can’t bare to with the people who love her, or to simply run away.
The play goes through many twists and turns and to talk about them would absolutely give too much away. There is one thing I can say for certain and that’s that in ‘Let’s Get Lost,’ not growing up has consequences.
LET’S GET LOST by Bebe Barry
Katzpace, SE1, 29 – 31 July 2018
Bridge House Theatre, SE20, 2 -4 August 2018
@July 2018 London Pub Theatres Magazine
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