When Peter Pan asks audiences to affirm their belief in fairies in order to revive Tinker Bell, this can be interpreted as an affirmation of the willing suspension of disbelief thought to be an essential condition of theatrical spectating. However, closer analysis of the original 1904 production of Peter Pan, including its variation from conventional pantomime, reveals the intertext of two contemporaneous debates in ethnology: the idea that the last of the fairy folk were departing from Britain, and the more empirical observation that gypsy-tinkers were losing their rural way of life. This reveals Peter Pan's query as a reflection about the status of oppressed groups, and thus less an affirmation of innocence than a referendum on the desirability of modernity. This case study is postulated as an example of dramatic license—a previously under-theorized concept—proposing this as a term with specific referentiality to the theatrical medium, in which a mimetic, intellectual, and ideological problem is explicitly placed before an audience in order to elicit a response.


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pp. 57-81
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