Peter Rabbit is a mischievous little creature; whether he’s disobeying his mother, getting into trouble with Mr McGregor, or losing another jacket, there’s never a dull moment with him around. So no wonder Beatrix Potter is concerned when she can’t find him! With the help of the simple but kindly Jemima Puddle-Duck, she sets out on a hunt for Peter – along the way they encounter various familiar faces (such as Jeremy Fisher, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, and Mr Tod), telling their stories to pass the time.
The delightful family musical Where Is Peter Rabbit? was devised by Roger Glossop, and features music from Steven Edis & lyrics by the renowned playwright Alan Ayckbourn. Sheila Carter directs & choreographs this production, which has taken up residence at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in between performances of Only Fools and Horses – The Musical. It has a limited engagement with shows at child-friendly times throughout the week.
It’s perhaps a slightly unexpected stage adaptation, given how old-fashioned some of the language will be to modern-day audiences (I don’t know the last time I heard someone refer to a ‘pocket handkerchief’, ‘galoshes’ or ‘soda pop’, amongst other things), though I can’t say I know how popular Beatrix Potter’s books still are with families. The extent of my knowledge in that department is that Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler are pretty prolific, and most of their works seem to find their way to the stage at one point or another. But Beatrix Potter is actually quite a sweet nostalgia trip for any of us who were brought up on these stories – I’m sure that many parents in the audience are in that position, and can use this as a way to introduce their children to the stories (as well as keep them occupied for an hour).
Whilst at some points it does feel like there isn’t much going for the younger children – the songs are quite wordy and there aren’t always a lot of vivid visuals – the incredible puppets definitely make up for this. They’re larger than you might expect, necessitating actors to be strapped up to their charges to help to control them, so you can see your favourite characters in great details; for anyone sat further away from the stage this is a real bonus, so you shouldn’t miss too much.
I’d love to be able to credit the designers and performers by name, but the official website quite shockingly doesn’t provide any of this information – hardly fair when the actors are working their socks off (ploughing on when some children start to get a bit restless), and the set is pretty in its simplicity.
The performances are spirited, and from a personal point of view it is rather lovely to hear these charming stories again, though it could do with a bit more Peter Rabbit than some of the other characters. The room came back to life once Peter showed his face (although Mr McGregor was also something of a hit), with everyone clapping along to his song at the end. Maybe just a slight misjudging of content and the potential audiences here.
My verdict? A charming family musical with some beautifully designed puppets – maybe Peter Rabbit needs to be found a bit sooner next time.
Where Is Peter Rabbit? runs at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 28 April 2019 (various performance times). Tickets are available online or from the box office.