"The picturesque design of Kensington Gardens, though artificially constructed and shaped by culture, is perhaps the aspect making it appear as a timeless reminder of the resilience of nature. This nature/culture structure is also one of the key themes within the Peter Pan ethos. In the literature, the reader is confronted by perpetual youth (Peter, being described as wearing only “autumn leaves and cobwebs” for clothing) while his companions grow older and their progeny become Peter’s new playmates for a time (Cordner 1995: 97). This can be reflected within the public nature of the gardens, where generations bring their family to experience the joy of Kensington as they once remembered it. For Barrie, his exploration of this tension would touch upon the inevitability of death: “The sense of lost, eternal youth had been implanted in him irreversibly at the age of 6, when his elder brother David (his mother’s favorite child) was killed in a skating accident on the eve of his fourteenth birthday. ‘When I became a man,’ he wrote later in Margaret Ogilvy, ‘he was still a boy of thirteen’ ” (Cordner 1995: xxii). This preoccupation with death was further translated onto the landscape, in Barrie’s interpretation of the parish boundary stones delineating between Paddington and St George Hannover Square parishes as “tombstones of lost children” or more specifically the lost boys, said to find Neverland after falling out of their prams (Cordner 1995: 313). There is a clear division in his plays, as well as upon visiting Kensington Gardens, between time halted and continued. Andrew Birkin further argues that through his interaction with the Llewelyn Davies children in their exploration of Kensington Gardens, the after-life of dead children is transfigured into the setting of Never Never Land, “a child’s paradise, haven of the Lost Boys, abounding in such pleasures designed to gratify a boy’s appetite for blood. Such visions of delight led George to make the not unnatural declaration, ‘To die will be an awfully big adventure’ “ (Birkin 2003: 69). This assertion became possibly the most memorable quote from the Peter Pan narrative."
Tonight’s finale of Heroes of Cosplay shows the conclusion of our Peter Pan costumes and people have been asking me about the premise and inspiration. It was based on interpretive work I did during my MA research at University College London looking at material culture, mortality, and landscape through the lens of phenomenology. However, Chloe so cleverly summed up my inspiration for a costume art house piece as “Peter Pan’s Labyrinth” (and it’s not discussed in the episode but you can see little nods to Guillermo del Toro symbolism weaved in all three of our costumes).
Anyway, based on popular request, I included a brief excerpt from some of my research on Peter Pan. I’d like to revisit, revise, and publish all my work when I’m not doing a million other things!
I hope the quote piques your interest. I’d love to discuss my thoughts! For more reading on phenomenology, I’d recommend the professor I studied under, Christopher Tilley. For other interesting work interpreting Peter Pan and material culture, check out Laurie Wilkie’s “The Lost Boys of Zeta Psi”.
I love cosplay not just for costume construction but for the vision, creativity and passion that goes into it. This was certainly another strange dream costume, but the weird ideas that stick with you are probably the ones that are going to make you cry on stage for reasons you can’t even properly articulate <3