The second of the Michael Grandage season at the Noel Coward Theatre brought together Judi Dench, Ben Whishaw and John Logan who all had a connection for having worked on the very successful film, Skyfall. Peter And Alice was altogether a different kind of project where this concerned the imagined conversation which took place during the only meeting of the two inspirations behind the character Peter Pan and Alice of Alice in Wonderland. It is an intriguing concept considering the popularity of the respective book and the commonality and contrast between the two. The plot dealt with the main themes of growing up in the limelight, the tricky questions of the two author’s ambiguous relationship with the young Peter and Alice and also growing up generally. The conversations were between the older Alice, Peter, the two authors, JM Barrie and Charles Dodgson and the two fictional version of Peter and Alice. This may pose a few potential pitfalls with this surreal and imagined set-up but John Logan was able to pull it off triumphantly. Logan managed to ground most of the dialogue around events which occurred in the authors and inspirations’ life and structured the discussions on the themes of the play around them. At 90 minutes, all the themes were explored in an eloquent, direct and succinct manner which was hugely satisfactory. Logan drew a few parallels between the life of Alice and Peter without feeling forced but brought interesting comparison on how their lives turned out. Judi Dench, at 78, looked a little frail in the first scene playing the 80 year old Alice but when she was transported back to her 10 year old self in front of her older companion, she casted off her cane, suddenly all bright eyed and had a lightness of foot about her. I was transported along with her and the nostalgia and wonder she portrayed moved me greatly. This emotional roller-coaster maintain throughout the play with all the joys and tragedy both Alice and Peter endured in their lives. Ben Whishaw had a more difficult part as his character, real life Peter, was more ambivalent about his feeling towards Peter Pan as he was burdened by the fame and association but yet enjoying the fruit of Barrie’s success along with the spectre of alcoholism and mental illness. The production design, by Christopher Oram, was a lavish fairytale theatre set which reveal itself like Alice falling down the rabbit hole after the initial scene at the drab book store. The dialogue and pacing, well handled by director Michael Grandage, had a great energy and rhythm to it and swept you along. I can see this being a great film because with all the re-imagining and cut scenes, albeit a wordy one. However, this outstanding play had the power to transport the audience to all the different worlds, from Wonderland to back of a bookshop, from Neverland to battle fields of WW1, and ask and ponder interesting questions about growing up, friendships and personal tragedies without judgement or prejudice. Highly recommended.


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