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We revive JM Barrie’s first play

moatbrae, June 18, 2015

We revive JM Barrie’s first play – Bandelero the Bandit

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.

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Scene from Bandelero the Bandit 2015 Scottish Youth Theatre

SAMSUSmike - the character originally played by JM Barrie himself

Smike – the character originally played by JM Barrie himself

bandelero flysheet

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.

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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.

Peter Pan Scottish Youth Theatre 2015

Peter Pan Scottish Youth Theatre 2015

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.

Scottish Youth Theatre perform scenes from Peter Pan 2015The 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.

You can see the full manuscript at Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University here.

PPMBT with SYT after first production of Bandelero June 2015

PPMBT with SYT after first production of Bandelero June 2015

 The cast:

Imogen Craven 20 St Andrews
Jonathon Combe 19 Blantyre
Euan Ferguson 17 Glasgow
Tom Higgins 18 Glasgow
Sean Langdon 17 Glasgow
Chris Lumby 20 Perth
Katee McCulloch 19 Edinburgh
Campbell McKenna 16 East Kilbride
Mark Walker 18 Glasgow

Thanks to Scottish Youth Theatre for making this such a fabulous event.


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