Paul Hammond. Right; THE CAST: From left, Jonathan Grundy played Peter Pan; Amy King essayed Wendy; and Robert Traynor played Captain Hook.

By Umer Nangiana

You must have seen Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up, flying to and around Neverland many a time on screen. How about seeing him live in the act? Dohaites just enjoyed the feat. It was a dream come true for children, in particular, when Peter Pan and his gang of Lost Boys brought the live adventure to town this Eid festival.
Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) collaborated with City Centre to bring Peter Pan’s Neverland to Doha, a high-flying, hi-tech fantasy adventure that combined the drama and excitement of live theatre with the epic visuals of a blockbuster movie.
Peter, pursuing his arch enemy, Captain Hook, indeed flew high above the stage before hundreds of people in the audience at City Centre’s festival space. Breathtakingly audacious scenes ensued as Peter, Wendy, Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys crossed swords with Captain Hook and his Pirates.
Featuring an international cast of acrobats, dancers, stuntmen and magicians, Peter Pan by Hammond Feel the Magic Company from United Kingdom was an experience that gave live entertainment a new dimension.
Invited by QTA to entertain Doha audiences this Eidul al-Fitr, the performers from Britain spiced up Peter Pan’s adventures with their high-octane original music scores and stunning acrobatic stunts on stage.
Created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan is a mischievous boy who can fly and never grows up. He spends his never-ending childhood having adventures on the small island of Neverland as the leader of his gang, the Lost Boys, interacting with mermaids, native Americans, fairies, pirates, and occasionally, ordinary children from the world outside Neverland.
In addition to two distinct works by Barrie, the character has been featured in a variety of media and merchandise, both adapting and expanding on Barrie’s works. These include an animated film, a dramatic film, a TV series and other works. Hammond’s version was unique in its own way, another variant of the previously staged versions.
“We have taken this show many places, although this version is special for Qatar and unique. We are a company from England and we were invited by QTA to bring this show to Qatar. We do all sorts of performances in shopping malls around the world. In England, we do it in theatres and amusement parks,” Paul Hammond, the producer of the show and the owner of the company, tells Community.
The original Barrie play is more than 250 pages but Hammond and his performers summed it up within the allotted 35 minutes, managing to tell the complete story with all its adventures. The choreography, music and stunts came together smoothly and the show, in fact, felt like much more than just 35 minutes.
“I think it comes over, all the elements are there. You just have to do it quicker. You just sit down and work out in your head what will work, and then, you write,” Hammond says to elaborate how they mould the story in order to make it fit for the short-time performance, making use of inter-connector acrobatic stunts. The performers came to Qatar prepared.
“When we get to Qatar, we had little time to put the show together but before we came we had rehearsals but it is very quick,” Hammond tells Community backstage.
Peter, played by young Jonathan Grundy, wears an outfit that consists of a short-sleeved green tunic and tights made of cloth. He came out as a perfect Peter Pan and delivered a punch with his performance. The scene where he flies high along with a co-actor on silks above the stage was the highlight of the show.
“Myself and the girl have specialised in silk and acrobatics in England. We have been flown in here and it was great fun. I have done it before but I loved the audience here. It was really nice,” Grundy says after the show.
“The cast is completely professional. I have been acting for about 30 years and my colleagues here have done a little less, but nonetheless they are all professionals. As you know the J. M. Barrie book is about 250 pages and we had 35 minutes so there were few bits that were missed (laughs). (But) I think we told most of the story,” Robert Traynor, who portrayed Captain Hook, reels.
Captain Hook is Peter Pan’s arch-enemy, whose left hand was cut off in a duel. Hook’s crew, including Smee and Starkey, also consider him a foe. Captain Hook’s two principal fears are the sight of his own blood and one crocodile. His name plays on the iron hook that replaced his hand cut off by Peter Pan and eaten by a saltwater crocodile, which continues to pursue Hook.
Amy King played Wendy in the show here. “It was my first time playing Wendy so it was fantastic, really loved the opportunity,” she spells out.  
Traynor has staged Peter Pan many times before this performance. “I don’t know if it was the original Barrie play, but I have certainly done it where Captain Hook also doubled as Mr. Darling at the end and the beginning of the show,” recalls the veteran actor.
The actors for the show were selected after hectic auditions. All of them fit into their roles smoothly.
“Some of the performers work permanently with us, some work for a different job so it depends on what your casting has to be and then you pick the right people for the job. We had auditions in London and so many people wanted to come to Qatar,” says Hammond.
“We had 200 people who applied to be Wendy, another 100 wanted to be Peter Pan because Qatar is a very popular tourist destination now. Many people wanted to come and so we chose from the ones that auditioned,” he added.
These guys are multi-talented, acrobats, actors and singers, says the producer, adding that he trains people besides doing the dancing and acting.
“I started out when I was 10 and have been a performer, singer, writer, actor, director; and now, I have my company. I have been doing it for many years. In England, I have been on television when I was an actor and I have done a lot of theatre, but I like to create and make. This is my thing I think,” says Hammond.
Starting at school, he trained in performing art before excelling in it to become a creator. In school, they had long days, he recalls, where he would put up little shows with people to entertain the rest of the school, and one day, somebody saw him and sounded out that his talent could be made use of in a play. That is how it began.
“I then went to drama school and trained for three years,” says the producer of Peter Pan, Hammond version.
Performing before the Doha audience, he added, was a fantastic experience. “The people liked the story. You can gauge from the people queuing to meet the team. They are very pleased, I think,” Hammond says, pointing to spectators now taking pictures with the cast of the show.
Hammond praises the QTA for providing everything from sounds, lights and technical support to the show. “We just brought the show and they supplied everything. We just came and performed.”
In conclusion, Hammond says he and his team would like to return and perform on an even bigger scale if an opportunity presents itself.

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