Review in the Westmorland Gazette
2 July 2016
SOME of Britain’s best-loved children’s characters have been brought to life in an iconic Cumbrian venue. Where is Peter Rabbit? had its world premiere at Bowness’s Old Laundry Theatre this week.
Co-written by acclaimed playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn, the play brings together several of Beatrix Potter’s best known stories and performances have so far been delighting both children and adults alike. Rosie MacLennan, who was at the show with her four-year-old grandson Aaron, said that she thought the show was ‘superb’.
“I love it. I’m just a child again. Everything just flowed. The costumes were brilliant, the voices were brilliant,” she said. “Normally this one, being a boy, can’t sit still for two seconds and he was just mesmerised.” Aaron agreed that he ‘loved’ the production, and said that his favourite part was when the titular character, Peter Rabbit, appeared.
Director and choreographer of the production, Sheila Carter, said that the venue itself was perfect and after weeks of preparation it was great to see the show come to life.
“I think the largest challenge was working with the puppets,” she said. “I’ve directed and I’ve choreographed before but I’ve never worked with puppets. It’s the challenge of finding out what the puppets can and can’t do. “The stories have got appeal, not just to children. They’ve got such a lot of characters, they’ve got colour,” she said. “I really truly believe it’s a show for any age group. We’re all young children at heart.”
She also said that working with Roger Glossop, a renowned theatre set designer, helped everything to run seamlessly. “I think also some of it’s quite dark – Tommy Brock and Mr Tod, for example” added Sheila. “It’s got loads of layers and emotions – it’s been great fun!”
With this year marking Beatrix Potter’s 150th anniversary, Sarah Melhuish, the marketing manager at the The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, said that being able to stage the show was ‘very special’ for them.
Showing at The Old Laundry Theatre, Where is Peter Rabbit? is 55-minutes of non-stop entertainment – a brilliant retelling of stories that we all know well, but told in ways that are fresh and exciting.
The play, which we are guided through by Beatrix Potter herself, tells the tales of five of Ms. Potter’s characters, including the spiky (but friendly) Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, the suavely dressed but ultimately untrustworthy Mr Tod and of course – everybody’s favourite – the mischievous Peter Rabbit.
Played by a small but perfectly formed ensemble cast of six, the production not only kept the attention of normally fidgety children; but adults were equally thrilled by the nostalgia trip the performance offered.
Perhaps most impressive was the way the production managed to incorporate some of the darker elements of Ms Potter’s tales – although Jemima Puddle-Duck might seem like a ditzy creature at times, the play manages to tap into the sadness that the bereft mother feels upon losing her eggs. A feat that not many children’s plays could muster.
With so many big names on board, it is perhaps no wonder that Where is Peter Rabbit? looks to be such a huge success – whether you know the stories already or you are new to Ms Potter’s world, it is not to be missed.