I wonder if PL Travers could have imagined, when she wrote her first Mary Poppins novel in 1934, that her work would have had such an impact on generations of children to come. This impact is not limited to children, in fact; I can testify, having spent a joyous 2 hours watching the stage musical on Broadway on Saturday, that I am still reaping the positive benefits of hearing the catchy music, feeling the joy of the audience, and experiencing the awe at the production. With songs such as ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ and ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’ racing around in my head, I feel as though I will have a smile on my face for weeks.
Mary Poppins may be a rather ambivalent character – it is reported that PL Travers fell out with Disney when they toned down the rather harsher aspects of her personality – but (on stage and on screen, certainly) she works wonders in helping a dysfunctional family rediscover its happiness, and in advocating the appropriate mix of discipline and love in child-rearing. She has a no-nonsense, ‘can-do’ approach to life, and obviously cares deeply about her charges (although not enough to stay with them forever, obviously). All elements of a positive role model, in many ways.
But it was not in the pedagogy but in the pure magic and beauty of the stage experience that I lost myself, as did my five year old daughter, who gazed open-eyed in wonder as Mary Poppins ascended to the heavens. ‘I believe in the magic’ said the strapline outside the theatre, next to the life-size photograph of Mary Poppins, headed for the skies holding her parrot umbrella and her bright red bag. And while we all know that there is a scientific explanation for everything, it does us good sometimes to see the world through the eyes of a child who has yet to discover this, and who wonders with amazement how she can fly.
My favourite lines? Well, they won’t surprise you. If you too were to abandon yourself to the extraordinary creativity of the show, you would understand entirely. You would have a bounce in your step as you set off, energised, on the next part of your day, week and life. Here they are:
‘If you reach for the stars, all you get are the stars, but […] if you reach for the heavens you get the stars thrown in’
What a marvellous thought to begin a new school term! Enjoy the magic and wonder of the world over the next few weeks!