Peter & Alice

“Of course that’s how it begins: a harmless fairy tale to pass the hours”
Where to begin? At the beginning I suppose! Last night I was enchanted, enraptured, melancholy, delighted! I watched the lives of the real Alice in Wonderland and the real Peter Pan unfold before my eyes.
The real Peter Pan meets the real Alice and the meandering at times, dizzying pace at others, adventure that ensues follows what their conversation might have been when they met for the first time:
When Alice Liddell Hargreaves met Peter Llewelyn Davies at the opening of a Lewis Carroll exhibition in 1932, the original Alice in Wonderland came face to face with the original Peter Pan. In John Logan’s remarkable new play, enchantment and reality collide as this brief encounter lays bare the lives of these two extraordinary characters. Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw in Logan’s first new play since Red, which went on to win 6 Tony Awards in 2010.
Judi Dench had such a stage presence. From the moment she walked on, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. I felt sorry at times for the little girl she was and the woman she became. My heart ached for Peter as his childhood seemed at times horrific with the loss of both his parents through cancer and the effect the First World War had on him.
You could “see” the soldier he shot dying, only knowing he was dead as the fleas crawled off of him. The boy who never grows up, did and it was not the storybook dream of Neverland.
I know this was an imagined conversation, I know that this was make-believe, but I believed it! As the story developed the dusty shelves and run down back end of the book shop disappeared into a children’s theater. The set came to life in a different way and storybook Alice and Peter appeared along with the authors who first carved them out of their imaginations. They led us through this world and how it came to be and what happened when the curtain was lifted, when the last page was finished and the magic dissolved into the reality of their true lives.
The lines were quick, the wit was sharp. The references back to their respective books were well written. Watching storybook Alice and Peter mock and tattletale on their real life counterparts was fascinating to watch. 

Through no choice of their own, it was as if these characters that had been created around them and their families became almost their own little conscience, what they measured or didn’t measure their lives by.  By outsiders they were compared to their literary selves even though that is not who and what they were.
I sat on the edge of my seat for 90 minutes and at the end of the play I would have sat there for another and watched this entire tale unfold again before my eyes. It was splendorous!
{all images copyright to the Michael Grandage Company}