Peter and Alice
Michael Grandage Season
Noel Coward Theatre, London
Monday 6th May 2013
Michael Grandage's season of productions at the Noel Coward theatre continues, this time with a new play by John Logan, based on the real lives of two people whose childhoods were immortalised in literature. One-act, just 90 minutes, and a deeply engrossing tale, this is a play to challenge and to spark debate about the relationships these real children had with their adult author friends.
None other than Dame Judi Dench plays Alice Liddell Hargreaves, who as a girl was the inspiration for her friend "Mr Dodge" to write a fantastical story. Mr Dodge is better known to the world, of course, as Lewis Carroll and the fantastical story is the timeless children's classic Alice in Wonderland. Her fresh faced co-star is Ben Wishaw plays Peter Llewellyn Davies, the youngest of a band of brothers who between them inspired their benefactor Mr Barrie to devise Neverland and the boy who never grew up, Peter Pan.
As the abstract plot develops we discover more about the childhood of these damaged people, their names living on through the history of fiction despite their own lives being full of reality and tragedy. There are many similarities in the two characters, both obsessed over by the writers of their immortal stories and both having grown up with the attached fame of being the inspiration and namesakes for such loved children's icons. As we discover more details, told with echoes of their respective characters and authors flitting ghost-like in and out of the action, we begin to understand the impact that these stories have had on their lives, far more negatively for Peter than for Alice.
Astonishing talent, performers either end of their careers, brought together in a mesmerising and haunting production.