Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated her delightful cautionary tales between 1901 and 1918 and their publication by Frederick Warne has created multiple generations of fans for the charming little books. The Old Laundry Theatre developed this stage version in 2016 bringing it to the West End in 2018 and it now returns for a season at the Theatre Royal Haymarket London until 1st September.
Where Is Peter Rabbit is an excellent addition to any family trip to London, to escape the hustle and bustle of the tourist season and enjoy the gentle charm of these well known stories for an hour. The design by Roger Glossop is completely faithful to the look and feel of the unique little books and the wonderful puppetry brings the well known characters to life in a delightfully animated way. Each character’s puppet is attached to the actor with springy wires and rods, so that they move in unison, enabling them to easily bound around the stage.
The producers have selected five stories to bring to the stage and weave them together with Beatrix Potter (Joanna Brown) and Jemima Puddle-Duck (Grace Osborn) providing the link. The Tales of Mr Jeremy Fisher (Samuel Knight) Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Mr Tod, Jemima Puddle-Duck and Peter Rabbit are strung together with the search for Peter Rabbit (Charlotte Harrington). We meet beautiful puppets of all five along with a Tommy Brock (a badger), a trout, a Collie dog as well a young girl, Lucie. Mr McGregor is played by Matthew Whitby and gets to sing various pleasant songs by Steven Edis about Carrots , Radishes, Onions , Lettuce , and “Stop Thief”. The stories are narrated by Myleene Klass and Griff Rhys Jones.
For all its consistency with the originals, the production is not perfect with technical problems at my visit to the projection on the rear flats which kept dropping out, occasional microphone problems and the stories are quite short and aren’t developed from the books. The technical issues may be a consequence of being a temporary show in the venue. The little girl next to me was disappointed that Benjamin Bunny (who was sat on her knee) only appeared briefly in the production!
However, there is wonderful charm in the production, the puppetry is excellent and it is a joy for parents and children alike to see these enchanting stories brought to life on the stage and in a hot summer the lovely theatre provides a cool haven for tourists with young children who are sure to be enthralled …unless they only like Benjamin Bunny.
Reviewed by Nick Wayne
FOLLOW WEST END WILMA