Peter and Alice . Three stars.

May 16, 2013

The individuals who were the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan meet and talk through their lives and experiences. How it has been for them – a burden or a gift?
The sets are wonderful – initially in a library with the pirate ship perched on the top shelf – which lifts away to reveal sets that recreate the illustrations from the books and take us back in time to when they met the men who wrote about them. ‘Peter’ is wracked with discomfort and angst; never the favourite of the five Llewellyn brothers that J.M Barrie courted and idolised, but the one whose name was used. His father, who had distrusted Barrie, died and Barrie stepped in to secure the boys upbringing.
But Peter resents the whole Peter Pan thing as a sham. A lie. He returned from the Somme with post traumatic stress, having seen the most horrendous things and believes the reason for childhood is simply to supply happy memories for when you do grow up and life is neverending shit. For him, the only possible reason for Neverland and boys who did not grow up was that they were killed before they reached adulthood.
Alice, on the other hand, rather enjoys the celebrity staus being Alice gives her in her dying years. Having lost two sons to World War One and outlived her husband, she is alone and friendless. But everyone remembers Alice in Wonderland fondly and therefore this reflects well on her.
The cast are wonderful, as you would expect with Dame Judi at the helm. But all the other actors play well too – there is a young Alice and Peter as the characters and younger selves and it is all cleverly interwoven throughout. But it is a sad and dark journey through unhappiness, otherness and isolation with hints of inappropriate relationships. Alice cannot persuade Peter to see any of it in a positive light and we know he is doomed.
Without the stellar cast and sets I think this play would struggle to come alive as the story, although cleverly done, is tenuous, hinted at and has more questions than answers. Three stars.


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