Remember the emotional bit at the end of Peter Pan, when the dancing light of Fairy Tinkerbell is flickering and dying, and Peter asks the children in the audience to make her well by clapping their hands if they believe in fairies? Of course they always clap their little hands off, and Tinkerbell is saved.
Except in Beryl Bainbridge’s ruthless new novel. The assistant stage manager controlling Tinkerbell drops the torch that makes the spot of light, and lets it roll away into the wings. The clapping in the auditorium fades, to be replaced by a ‘tumult of weeping.’
Dying, in Barrie’s play, is the ‘awfully big adventure’. Tinkerbell’s demise coincides with the death of all the illusions and fantasies that have sustained Stella, the teenage girl who drops the torch in the Liverpool Playhouse’s Christmas production. The year is 1950, and we are comfortably back in comfortless Bainbridge