Sunday 26 May 2019

A local connection to Peter Pan

Jessica Farry

The story of Peter Pan is familiar to us all. But a Sligo woman knows the story better than most.

Sonia Norris, in fact, even has a family connection to the story.

She explained to The Sligo Champion: "The story that I have been told, since we knew who Peter Pan, was that there was a captain in the Royal Navy supposedly that was called James Hook. I have an ancestor called James Hook, it wasn't a captain in the Royal Navy but JM Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan, played cricket with my great great grandfather and his uncle. My great great uncle was Alan James Hook.

"He was supposedly the captain of the cricket team so he was captain James Hook. They were friends, that part is a fact. That's where the family connection is."

That is perhaps why Sonia, of Rabbits Riot Theatre Company, was so keen to put on a production of Peter Pan with the theatre company and co-founder Treasa Nealon.

'Peter Pan: Welcome to Neverland' will be running at the Glens Centre from July 13-15.

Sonia has designed the costume and set, and is co-directing now with colleague Treasa.

"Directing and designing at the same time is huge so it's good that Treasa is taking this on too.

"I did theatre design in college and I've always wanted to design Peter Pan. I would be making costumes, designing costumes, building the set, a lot of it is recycled. A lot of it is from upcycled clothes that have been donated, we like to buy as little as possible. A lot of the set is built from recycled things.

"I've spent the whole week at the sewing machine. I love it. If I could make costumes for the rest of my life I would. For costumes I will design a costume or see a couple of items that will resemble the costume.

"For one of the costumes I have turned what was a dress into the bottom half of a dress and got an old blouse and upcycled it and made it into a whole new dress."

The cast is made up of 15-20 people who have been working hard rehearsing since May.

"We've got a bunch of lost boys so there's lots of under 12s, we've got quite a lot of adults, pirates, we've got teenagers, who have worked with us before which is great cause people are coming back to us to get involved in our bigger projects."

Rabbits Riot Theatre Company has just celebrated its second birthday. And it's been a busy two years for the company and co-founders Sonia and Treasa.

"We've done a hell of a lot in the two years we've been going. We have produced two LGBT film festivals, we have done our first big show Alice in Wonderland, we did the panto in the Glens Centre, I think it's happening again this year. We did Crinniu na nÓg, for which we did Peter Pan outdoors. We lit up Glencar Waterfall for Culture Night. We've done a lot of immersive theatre and outdoor theatre. We've done a lot of tough topics.

One of the aspects of Rabbits Riot is that they try to delve into more provocative topics.

"When we first started up we wanted to have a socially trending issue so we've done a lot of work like the LGBT festival, we did a piece that went hand in hand with the pro-choice campaign, we took a piece to the Galway Theatre Festival that was looking at helping young men so this whole thing of going to college and the Irish culture of alcohol addiction, we've looked at depression and suicide. We try to have a couple of those shows each year to keep the conversation going."

Sligo Champion