26th June 2015
For the first time since 1877, J M Barrie’s “lost” first play, Bandelero the Bandit, returned to the stage in a dynamic and inspiring production by Scottish Youth Theatre.
Smike – the character originally played by JM Barrie himself
Against expectation his hand-written notebook containing the script, stage directions, review clippings and a fascinating record of the ensuing controversy, ended up at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, at Yale University, in the USA where it eventually came to the attention of Edinburgh scholar Professor Ronnie Jack and has been republished.
At almost the same time and completely independently, the Trust received an email containing a link where the full notebook could be downloaded from Beineke from Colin Hunter, an interested member of the public who was browsing our old website to collect memories of Moat Brae and Dumfries for his elderly mother. This was an exciting development for the Trust as the notebook gives a unique insight into Barrie’s own determination and interests precisely at the time when he was experiencing his ‘happiest days’ as a 17 year old in Dumfries.
Thanks to this surprise survival the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust, working with the Scottish Youth Theatre (SYT), revived Bandelero with a live reading at Dumfries Academy.
The audience was also treated to a reading of the much-loved nursery scenes from Peter Pan, contrasting Barrie’s earliest work with his most famous.
The event also provided a dramatic launchpad for the trust’s Digital Appeal to raise the last £1.5 million to turn Moat Brae – where Peter Pan began – into a National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling.
And this is just the beginning for Bandelero as PPMBT and SYT are using it as the centrepiece of a three-year project to inspire Scottish playwrights of the future.
This is particularly appropriate because the play is credited with containing the seeds of many themes and ideas which were highly significant in Barrie’s later career.
It also, quite inadvertently, gave the teenager a national profile when a local clergyman wrote to the newspapers lambasting the play (a rather innocent tale about an accused man) for being grossly immoral.
Not only did this help ensure a big audience for the Bandelero’s second staging but it brought Barrie to the attention of leading theatrical figures such as the famous actor-manager Sir Henry Irving.