Saturday, 30 March 2013

Peter and Alice - Noël Coward Theatre - Friday 29 March **

Despite all the hooplah surrounding the announcement of the star-studded Michael Grandage season at the Noël Coward, it really does look like it’s turning into a bit of a damp squib. Following the underwhelming Privates On Parade, enlivened only by Simon Russell Beale’s dame by any other name, the solitary new play in the season manages to make its brief 80 minutes feel like a lifetime.

John (Skyfall) Logan imagines the one genuine meeting between Peter (Pan) Llewelyn Davies and Alice (in Wonderland) Liddell Hargreaves at a book launch, by which time he is a middle-aged publisher and she an 80 year old widow.

The trouble is Logan can only envisage lives destroyed by childhood fame and paints a relentlessly bleak picture of what we would now undoubtedly see as paedophilic grooming and endless loss of loved ones. Cancer, war and suicide rear their heads with alarming regularity. There were more laughs to be had at the Good Friday Passion performed earlier in the day at Trafalgar Square than in this waste of two of the greatest acting talents this country has ever produced. Oh yes, I forgot to mention, if you have been living in a cave in Wookey Hollow for the past twelve months, the pairing of Judi (M) Dench and Ben (Q) Whishaw may have passed you by.

All Logan does is allow his two leads to compare notes as to who has had the worst life, much like Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch, which says it all in four succint minutes.We eventually meet the most annoying Peter Pan and Alice imaginable together with the creepiest JM Barrie and Lewis Carroll who would be fingered by Operation Yewtree without a second thought

Even the set, which has caused almost as much chatter as the cast, disappoints, a tatty bookshop giving way to a life size children’s theatre which wouldn’t look out of place at Wolverhampton Grand’s annual Cinderella.

Much like last years’ similarly frustrating Julie Walters-led Last of the Haussmans, I pray that this doesn’t prove to be Dame Judi’s theatrical swansong.

Booking until 1 June 2013, but such is the power of the Dench-Whishaw double header, the entire run is sold-out. A limited number of £10 day seats are released each day at 10.30am for the masochists amongst you.

Relentlessy bleak, mercifully brief - Peter and Alice

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