Wednesday, 29 May 2013

When Peter Pan met Alice in Wonderland

I’d booked tickets to Peter and Alice at the Noel Coward Theatre two months ago and had been eagerly awaiting to see the show since then. This stars the magnificent Judi Dench and her equally impressive co-star Ben Whishaw (you may recognise these partners-in-crime from the latest Bond film) as Alice Liddell Hargreaves and Peter Llewlyn, better known to us as Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.

In my typical cheap-theatre-going fashion I booked myself the cheapest seats possible (£12). These put me in a restricted viewing area - which usually means something a bit minimal but these seats you literally had to lean so far forward I thought I might topple off the balcony! A sore back was well worth it though.
View from my seat if I didn't lean forward

Dench and Whishaw are both broken people when we meet them. They retrace their lives through fantasy, reality we see their former youth that captivated Caroll and Barrie’s attention and sparked two of the greatest children’s stories ever written. But the two writers fascination with childhood and never growing up has impacted both their lives disastrously. It’s starts off with quite a lot of black comedy, Dench’s character displaying a sharp witty tongue. Peter Pan comes flying down and Alice pops her head from under the floor. These young, vibrant characters contrast harshly with the reality of what has become of their inspirations. But as the stories progress, and the themes of pedophilia, aging and lonlieness begin to push the comedy to the back burner. In the end you are left with an extremely sad, despondent and hopeless feeling. I spent the good last half hour of the show attempting to stifle my sobs.

The set is brilliant, the theatre itself beautiful and although I’ve heard complaints of it being too wordy, I thought the long passages of speech were so beautifully written (John Logan) and delivered so brilliantly that it didn’t feel long. I don’t really have a bad word to say about it except that I thought that the boy playing Peter Pan was slightly weak (especially in vocal quality) compared to his fellow cast members, though he did have an air or springy youthfulness.

We went for cocktails afterwards and sat there debriefing about the show for a few hours, and kept talking about it the next morning, and the next night too. It’s a piece that will stay with me for a while to come.

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