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Interview with Captain Hook and Smee 31

By Open Air Theatre

Hook and Smee

Published: 31 May 2018

We caught up with Dennis Herdman who plays the villainous Captain Hook, and sidekick Caroline Deyga, playing the loveable Smee.

“The man is not wholly evil – he has a Thesaurus in his cabin.” (Captain Hook as described by J. M. Barrie in Peter Pan) – what do you make of Hook’s character?

DH: Looking at the script, and reading the book, I think he’s probably motherless and is in need of mothering – just like Peter Pan. He’s envious of Peter’s cockiness, his lack of care, and his lust for life. Peter is wild, and Hook can’t really deal with that so he seeks to destroy it.

Hook being eaten by a crocodile is the perfect ending; perhaps the audience should feel a twinge of regret that he dies – hopefully because they enjoy watching Hook, but maybe because they see a bit of his vulnerability.

Smee is a bit of a buffoon, but also a pirate with a good heart, for example Smee offers to save Wendy from the plank, if only she promises to be his mother – an offer she refuses, in Barrie's words, "Not even for Smee" – what kind of Smee are we going to see in this production?

CD: Smee, traditionally, is the dopey pirate, but actually in our production all of the pirates are pretty dopey, so Smee actually ends up being the brains of the operation! A lot of the ideas come from Smee, however unintentional – for example, it’s her idea to kidnap Wendy. If she’s the brains, then the rest of the pirates are definitely the brawn; although she threatens violence a lot, she doesn’t actively participate.

Our Smee is a woman, so there is a slightly different dynamic than normal, but essentially Smee is still Smee, and based on the character in the book. We don’t really make a thing out of it; Smee is referred to as ‘he’ for the majority of the show, because maybe it’s never come up in conversation? She’s never made a thing of it, and they’ve never even asked!

What’s the relationship between Hook and Smee? Does this bear any resemblance to your relationship off-stage?

CD: Smee looks up to Captain Hook quite a lot, and I look up to Dennis; he’s a brilliant Hook, and I’ve learnt a lot from working with him and watching him in rehearsals.

DH: I hope I’m less condescending in real life! In terms of Smee being the accidental or secret brains of the operation, Caroline is also really astute and a great organiser! We rely on Caroline, in the same way that Hook relies on Smee; Hook tells Smee his plans not just because it’s safe to tell her, but because Smee comes up with plans and often hits the nail on the head!

CD: And, although we are a duo, we are actually a trio with Starkey. Kyle (Lima) who plays Starkey is a big part of our relationship. There’s a competition between Starkey and Smee, viaing for Hook’s attention, love, and admiration. I love acting alongside Kyle and Dennis – we talk a lot about things we want to try as a trio, and share the same sense of humour.

This show is full of puppetry – how does this enhance the storytelling?

DH: This is a world of a child’s imagination; flying and playing at pirates and mermaids. It should be a visual treat and it’s a great theatre for that. It’s wonderful to fire the imagination of the audience with brilliant puppets and puppeteers.

CD: The way that the puppets in this production are made is really clever. There are two distinct worlds, WW1 and Never Land; Never Land is in Wendy’s mind and comes from her experience as a WW1 nurse. The puppets are made out of things from that world: gas masks, lamps and suitcases. I find it amazing that I never look at them and don’t full accept that that’s what they’re supposed to be.

Elisa who plays Tinker Bell is so wonderful. Playing such an integral character who is a puppet and speaks in her own indistinct fairy language is a huge challenge. However, the response from the audience when she dies, and they have to help bring her back to life, says it all; there’s no hesitation in clapping and saying they believe in fairies – they’ve fallen in love with her and want her to live.

Why should people come and see the show?

CD: I think Peter Pan is one of the most magical stories ever written, and I think that Regent’s Park is one of the most magical theatres; it’s a perfect match. At an evening show, at the end of a performance when it’s dark and the stars are out, you watch Peter Pan fly, you’re not going to get that elsewhere – that’s really special.

DH: Your imagination will soar and your heart will break. You want to be moved and to laugh when you go to the theatre, and that will happen here.

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