JM Barrie and Captain Scott: Two friends who took the world by storm

THEY were the towering figures of their age, one the Scottish author who wrote the best-selling Peter Pan novels and the other the most famous polar explorer in British history.

• Robert Scott at the Antarctic

Less well known, however, is that JM Barrie and Scott of the Antarctic formed a close friendship that ended in tragedy when they fell out shortly before the polar explorer's deadly final expedition.

Now, for the first time, the relationship between these two very different men has been reviewed in a new drama to be premiered this weekend.

New play Mythmakers tells how Barrie, left weakened and short in stature by a poverty-stricken childhood, longed for a life of adventure and desperately wanted to be an explorer.

Meanwhile, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, although a heroic adventurer, had wanted to be a writer in his early years until forced by family pressures to pursue a career in the navy.

When the pair became the leading celebrities of the early 20th century, they met at a society party in London and became inseparable companions. However, just before Scott left for his final polar expedition, the pair became estranged, leaving Barrie bereft when his friend died in 1912.

• JM Barrie

And in a final twist to the two men's story, one of Scott's final undelivered letters - found among his possessions when his body was discovered - had been written to Barrie.

In it Scott wrote to Barrie: "I never met a man in my life whom I admired and loved more than you, but I never could show you how much your friendship meant to me, for you had much to give and I nothing."

Writers Richard White and Rosie Mclellan, of theatre company Celtic Circles, were stunned when they came across the story to find it had never been explored in detail before, and set to work creating Mythmakers.

The play, starring well-known Scottish actors Kern Falconer as Barrie and Vincent Guy as Scott, will have its first public performance as a rehearsed reading on Saturday night at the Masonic Hall in North Berwick.

Mr White said: "It just seemed such an amazing story, and the more we looked into it, the more fascinating it became.

"In a way, it seemed like each man wanted to be the other.

"There's no suggestion there was anything salacious going on. They were simply very good friends."

For veteran actor Kern Falconer, playing Barrie has a certain resonance as he is from Kirriemuir, Barrie's birthplace.

Mr Falconer, who won critical acclaim for his role in last year's Lyceum hit Confessions of a Justified Sinner, said: "The link between the two men was incredibly strong.

"Captain Scott named his son Peter, after Peter Pan, and Barrie was the boy's godfather."

The company is now planning to stage a full production of the play, which they hope to perform as part of 2012 celebrations marking the centenary of Scott's famous expedition.