Review in The Times
By Ann Treneman, 29 June 2016
Clever puppetry makes characters such as Tommy Brock and Mr Tod come alive
Forget fluffy bunnies. There’s nothing Flopsy, Mopsy or Cottontail about this musical created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth. This is about carnage in the English countryside, fury on the farm.
Yet Peter Rabbit is not any rabbit, of course. He is the original garden delinquent. I was apprehensive when I heard about this musical, anxious that it would end up being too anodyne or, shudder, sentimental. I needn’t have worried. Steven Edis has composed the music, Alan Ayckbourn has written the lyrics. I have to say that Beatrix and Alan make quite a combo.
Who knew that would work so well?
The whole event, which lasts an hour and is for all ages, even adults, tells five of Beatrix Potter’s tales, with the characters portrayed via intricate puppets. The stories are introduced by Beatrix herself, played by Danielle Morris, as she talks to Jemima Puddle-Duck. And, yes, of course Jemima can talk and for that matter sing. I loved her as a character, a naive and far too trusting farmyard worrywart. But here, as a puppet, controlled and voiced by Grace Eccle, she is better, not least because she can fly from one end to the other of the ingenious set.
In addition to the tales about Peter and Jemima, there are those from the frog Jeremy Fisher and the hedgehog Mrs Tiggy-Winkle. But there is also the ghastly fox Mr Tod and the frankly appalling badger Tommy Brock. I must say it’s quite refreshing to see a badger that is quite so despicable.
This small theatre is part of the World of Beatrix Potter, a tourist attraction, in the small and crowded place that is Bowness-on-Windermere.
Don’t let that put you off. Roger Glossop, both designer and deviser of this musical, has created something special here. The voices include Miriam Margolyes and Griff Rhys Jones. At times it does feel as if they are trying to pack too much into an hour but the director, Sheila Carter, succeeds in capturing the spirit of the original stories. The props, on the revolving set, could have been created by Potter herself.
The children in the audience (much better behaved than adults in the West End) reacted to the moments of theatrical magic with audible gasps.
Afterwards, a tourist collared me. “Is it worth going?” she asked. “For adults?” What a question. It’s more than worth going. It’s a joy.