All children grow up…except one.
This Christmas, Peter Pan will be played by James Phoon, who has performed in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on the West End and Lord of the Flies at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
Can you tell us a little bit about where you have been before coming to Chester for Peter Pan?
Before becoming Peter Pan, I was creating a different kind of magic in the West End’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Alongside this, I’ve also been voicing the video game Total War: Three Kingdoms as a war general from Ancient China and working on a TV pilot as a thick-skinned drag queen! My previous projects include Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s Lord of the Flies and Above the Stag Theatre’s Southern Baptist Sissies. The variety in all of my roles so far has been a dream!
What’s it like playing such an iconic character?
A huge part of being an actor is allowing yourself freedom from reality; the chance to play and explore. I think it’s something that we’re often told to leave behind as we mature. Playing Peter Pan is really an extension of that. He allows himself total freedom from responsibilities and consequences and lives entirely in a present world of playfulness and desire. It’s a great mindset to be spending time in!
What is your relationship to the story of Peter Pan?
My relationship to the story of Peter Pan draws on the playful parts of my personality which aren’t always on show. When it comes to exploring the story, there’s a whole host of research already ingrained in us from our childhoods. We all know the bones of the story and characters created by J.M.Barrie, and Gary Owen’s adaptation adds a contemporary, modern day wit. The familiarity has allowed me to leap into the project right from the get-go!
What’s something that you did growing up that got you into trouble?
I went through a phase where I’d hide people’s things (which usually belonged to one of my sisters). I’d then deny all responsibility, to the point where I would make myself cry from the injustice of being accused! Of course, eventually the items would be found under sofa cushions, behind curtains, or beneath furniture, and it’d be obvious that I’d struck again!
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you were older?
My ambitions growing up included becoming a wizard, a superhero, a secret agent or a waterbender (fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender will understand). Eventually I realised I was unlikely to develop supernatural abilities and it would be easier to pretend to have them instead! I’ve already ticked off being part of J.K.Rowling’s Wizarding World, and am now flying around, refusing to grow up – so I’m making my way through the list!
What would your dream Neverland look like?
It would be a world of natural beauty – think tumbling mountains, green rainforests and Thai beaches. I’d have mastery over all the elements, being entirely at one with my surroundings. And as if by magic, coffee and biscuits would materialise out of the air whenever they were desired.