Anyone who has the mis/fortune of parenting a toddler will know that Peppa Pig has an almost addictive appeal. I can bear witness to it’s near crack-like effect on small humans; there have been several occasions at 6am where I approach my child’s bedroom to hear him demanding vociferously ‘Peppa Pig!?’, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take him along to the live version of the show.
We arrive in the auditorium to see a recognisable Peppa Pig style neighbourhood with the show’s signature simplistic design and the show opens with the all too familiar Peppa Pig theme tune (a melody that haunts my dreams) but unexpectedly the first figure on stage is not a pig, but a human! A little girl called Daisy for whom today is her first day at school. She kicks things off with a healthy amount of Panto-esque audience engagement before introducing all the familiar Peppa Pig characters on to the stage – as each character arrives, peeking from behind a piece of scenery, it’s clear that these actors have spent a lot of time mastering the voices: many of these on-stage characters sound exactly like their TV show counterparts.
After meeting Pedro Pony, Rebecca Rabbit et al, we are finally given what we’ve all been waiting for: Peppa arrives and introduces us to George, Mummy and Daddy Pig. Now firmly ensconced in Peppa Pig world, there’s a song to take us to the school room where Madame Gazelle is waiting for us. Most of the characters are played by puppets, manipulated by actors dressed in black (like Avenue Q without the swearing) with the grown ups (like Daddy Pig) played by adults in costumes. However, the young audience didn’t seem to notice the men (and women) in black and only saw their TV heroes when they looked at the stage.
Many of the scenes of the stage show are directly lifted from popular Peppa Pig episodes: a music lesson at school, a residential trip to a campsite, feeding the ducks, etc, and we have plenty of songs to sing along to as we go (including everyone’s favourite, ‘The Bing Bong Song’). Different settings give opportunities for memorable experiences for the audience – we see lots of glowing insects flying in the dimmed moon on the campfire, there’s havoc with the weather which leads to pouring rain and expert use of a Super Soaker, much to the chagrin of a neighbouring Grandma in the audience, who was not expecting to get wet! As bedtime arrives, the chance for in-tent silhouettes is not wasted, which gives opportunities for lots of humour. In fact, the show does well in general with striking a balance between entertaining the children whilst also giving the beleaguered grownups something to smile about, like Peppa’s typical obnoxiousness, as is it with the TV show.
The show is well put together and is the perfect length for little ones with their shorter attention spans, though many of us wondered whether the interval was strictly necessary for a 60 minute show. Bronte Tadman, who plays the little girl Daisy, deserves a special mention for the warmth, humour and energy she maintains throughout – she keeps the piece zipping along and makes sure the children watching stay engaged.
Reviewed by Jody Tranter
FOLLOW WEST END WILMA