Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie by Beryl Bainbridge, 1985
The magic trick:
Applying the Chekhov’s Gun device to the script of Peter Pan
Welcome to Christmastime in Liverpool. It’s not Beatles music and sleigh rides.
We all know about Chekhov’s Gun. But what about the not-nearly-as-famous Chekhov’s Peter Pan Script?
True, it’s lesser known, but here it is remarkably effective. This story filters its plot and themes during the second half through a stage performance of Peter Pan. It’s an odd idea, but it actually works well. The story also is a very funny one. You’re so amused you nearly forget to notice how dark the undertones are.
Charlie is a ticking time bomb. Kind of like the crocodile with the clock. And that’s quite a trick on Bainbridge’s part.
During Acts Two and Three, Charles Henderson dozed. He was aware of loud noises and children screaming in a bloodthirsty fashion. He hoped Wayne wasn’t having one of his tantrums. It was confusing for him. He was dreaming he was fishing in the canal for tiddlers and a damn big crocodile crawled up the bank with a clock ticking inside it. Then he heard a drum beating and a voice cried out ‘To die will be an awfully big adventure.’ He woke up then with a start. He had a pain in his arm.
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