Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Peter and Alice review

The Michael Grandage season at The Noel Coward Theatre is without doubt THE theatre highlight of the year, with five plays running over the course of a year featuring top-class writers, directors and actors including world-class names such as Dame Judi Dench, Daniel Radcliffe and Jude Law.

I was lucky enough to catch the eagerly anticipated Peter and Alice last week and it was a wonderful theatre experience. To be honest it initially caught my eye as I wanted to experience seeing one of my favourite actors, Judi Dench, live on stage and with a large amount of £10 tickets available for each performance, this is an opportunity that cannot be turned down! There is also a definite 'Skyfall' theme as the play also stars Ben Whishaw (Q in the latest Bond film) and is written by the film's screenwriter John Logan.

“Of course that’s how it begins: a harmless fairy tale to pass the hours”

Peter and Alice tells of the real-life meeting between Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland now in her 80s and publisher Peter Llewelyn Davies, a young man who Peter Pan was written for. Logan has researched their tragic adult lives and imagined what these two immortal characters may have spoken to each other about.

As soon as Ben Whishaw enters the stage, an almost hunched over figure, lighting up a cigarette, he has the audience's attention. This is obviously a man with an aura of sadness about him. Judi Dench's enters confidently, full of plenty of put-downs making the audience roar with laughter. Although the first exchange between the two characters is amusing, I'm not sure if the production team expected such outbursts from the audience. The set design is stunning, with the opening scene in a beautiful, if dilapidated bookshop.

As Alice and Peter relive their childhoods, scenes from their past as well as familiar images from Wonderland and Neverland are revealed. This makes a magical, beautiful and poignant sight. These are stories which every child must be aware of, but the sadness out of which they are born makes these two stories of innocence and wonder very thought-provoking.

Alice and Peter are joined in their thoughts by the authors of their tales, Lewis Carroll and J.M Barrie as well as the young versions of their characters with both Alice and Peter Pan making surprising and beautiful entrances.

Judi Dench really is a wonderful actress. She begins the play as an elderly woman, moving cautiously across the stage and as she delves into her past, she skips and dances around the stage, with her face looking like a young, cheeky girl. She plays well to all of the audience knowing exactly how to make sure that even the balcony where we were sitting can see all of her facial expressions. Ben Whishaw puts in a heart-breaking performance, but sometimes it was a struggle to see his face as he played his character as a thoughtful, almost introverted man, looking downwards a lot of the time.

This is a beautiful, enchanting and moving play which I would thoroughly recommend seeing. I can't wait to see Daniel Radcliffe in The Cripple of Inishmaan in July!

Peter and Alice runs until 1st June - there are tickets available from 10.30am each day and queues for return tickets (the day we went the queue was massive!)

Find out about the rest of the Michael Grandage season at www.michaelgrandagecompany.com

Watch the trailer for Peter and Alice here:

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