Tag Archives: Nicholas Farrell

REVIEW: Peter and Alice, Noel Coward Theatre, London

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Let’s be honest about this, the inevitable draw of this play is not John Logan’s writing; or its intriguing premise – what happened when the real Alice in Wonderland, Alice Liddell Hargreaves met the real Peter Pan, Peter Llewellyn Davies; nor is it this play’s inclusion in Michael Grandage’s much vaunted helming of this season at the Noel Coward Theatre, but the fact that it stars Britain’s best-loved theatrical Dame, Judy Dench and one of Britain’s finest and most magnetic young actors Ben Whishaw. The lure of seeing the old ‘M’ and the new ‘Q’ seemingly proving to be irresistible if the night after night ‘House Full’ signs are any guide.

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Despite the quality of the writer, the play suffers fundamentally from a lack of variety in tone and a heaviness of dialogue. It is indeed the acting that is this play’s salvation. Beautifully pitched throughout, it is in conversation with Peter Llewellyn-Davies, who along with his brothers provided J.M. Barrie with the inspiration for the boy who never grew up, that the reason for the pair’s unfulfilled and ultimately painful lives is revealed.

peter and alice

Llewellyn-Davies forces Liddell to re-examine the relationship between Lewis Carroll (Reverend Charles Dodgson), her ten year old self and her two sisters, and confront the fact that the albeit repressed relationship, was often inappropriately sexually charged. Layer by layer the reasons for Liddell’s subsequent bitterness and defensiveness come to light.

Llewellyn-Davies’ relationship with J. M. Barrie was born of tragedy and inevitably was destined to end as it started. This performance is Whishaw at his best: depicting a character of sensitivity and emotion. His affecting portrayal is genuinely heart-breaking and the show of vulnerability so convincing that many in the auditorium were genuinely moved to tears. He is an utterly magnetic presence on stage.

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Dench and Whishaw are ably supported by stage and screen veteran Nicholas Farrell as Dodgson and Derek Riddell as J.M. Barrie. Peter Pan (Olly Alexander) and Alice (Ruby Bentall) also appear as mischievous presences throughout the piece.

o-PETER-AND-ALICE-570This is not a play for those wishing to experience a heart-warming trip back to their childhood literary favourites, rather it is a beautifully acted, thought-provoking but ultimately heartbreaking tale of two lives destroyed, through no fault of their own, at the hands of people who supposedly loved them.

REVIEW: Birdsong – Comedy Theatre, London

When choosing what plays or musicals to see on this trip certain criteria came into play, “What have I not seen?” and “Who would I like to see?”  As a much loved book frequently voted into “favourites” lists, Birdsong would certainly come high on any list just to see what could be done to transfer this massive and heart wrenching story to the stage. However, if I’m being honest the real reason was to see Ben Barnes.

Curiosity to see what “Prince Caspian” is like in “real life” and to see if there was any substance to the rather attractive exterior.

Thankfully he didn’t disappoint in any department. He is as stunning in real life as he looks on screen (I was literally inches away) and he can actually act. The trench scenes especially were poignant and thought provoking. It shows that war in any age never really changes and that we need to remember that it’s fellow human beings who are fighting them on our behalf – not abstract names or statistics.

The supporting cast were equally strong, in particular veteran Nicholas Farrell and Lee Ross (below) as Jack Firebrace who really moved in the heart-breaking trench scene. Genevieve O’Reilly (above right) although convincing as the aloof, married woman, I find cold and detached in everything she does and it was no different here.

One of the more amusing aspects of the evening was the girl beside us who you could tell was having difficulty containing herself everytime Mr Barnes passed by the front of the stage. Only due to the urging of her mortified friend did she manage to restrain herself from actually touching him. I was secretly hoping she would go for it to see what would happen.

It’s not, and no stage adaptation could ever be, the epic novel, but it was adept in its portrayal of the stultifying bourgeois society of turn of the century Amiens, and the terrifying claustrophobia of the trenches and the tunnels was convincingly and movingly done.