*parts written in italics include spoilers*
On the 30th March I went to see the play “Peter and Alice” at the Noel Coward Theatre in London. I had been looking forward to this play for a long time, mainly because Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw (two of my favourite actors) were playing the two titular characters. John Logan had written the script which seemed promising, as he had written the screenplay for ”Skyfall” and “Sweeney Todd”, and his previous play “Red” had been heavily praised.
The play draws inspiration from the real-life meeting of Alice Liddell Hargreaves (the lady who inspired “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland”) and Peter Llewelyn Davies (the namesake of the character “Peter Pan”), and imagines what the two would have said to each other. It explores the effects of childhood fame and the bitterness and disappointment that sometimes follows. The main premise of the play was good, and I think that the script held a lot of potential, there is one rather gorgeous scene where the character of Peter Pan and Alice In Wonderland turn on their real-life counterparts and start revealing their secrets;”She took lovers and then grew bored”…”He still lives on Barrie’s money”, and there were multiple flashbacks to each character’s past, but overall the script left me a little disappointed and it sometimes felt a bit flat.
I can’t fault any of the actors for their part. I was sitting in a balcony seat, which meant that I had a far-off view, but from what I could see the actors were brilliant. Dame Judi Dench managed to switch perfectly between being a lonely elderly lady with no close friends to being a young, eager child, full of innocence. Ben Whishaw managed to pull off being jealous, angry, bitter, childish and vulnerable in a way that only he could.
The play develops a slightly more sinister undertone when addressing the characters of Lewis Carroll (Nicholas Farrell) and JM Barrie (Derek Riddell). Hints are given that Lewis Carroll might have had some darker thoughts towards Alice “he transformed his desires into paper and silver nitrate”, and JM Barrie is portrayed as a lonely and possessive man who obsesses over Peter’s younger brother Michael.
Olly Alexander gave a beatifully childish portrayal of the reckless Peter Pan, and there wasa certain likeness between both the Peters (it’s funny how he also played Ben Whishaw’s brother in the film “Bright Star”). Ruby Bentall played a demanding and drifting version of Alice In Wonderland.
In the end I left the theatre feeling slightly empty and disappointed. However, I was glad that I had seen the play, and it certainly gives you something to think about on the journey home.
The Stage Door
After the play, I dragged my sister towards the stage door, where a reasonably sized crowd was waiting. I was so excited because I have adored Ben Whishaw for years because he’s such a talented, beautiful and down-to-earth actor. And Dame Judi Dench… Well, does that need an explanation? Nicholas Farrell and Derek Riddell came out first. Both of them were really lovely and signed my copy of the play. Then we waited until a man came out and informed us that Dame Judi Dench had already left. Someone else called out “What about Ben Whishaw? Is he coming out?” The man replied saying that Ben had left too, but then he appeared to get a little confused and went back inside the building. He came out a while later and said “Ben will be out in ten minutes”.
So we waited. I was jumping around like a nervous tick, and then we saw him coming. He was so patient and kind, making sure that he thanked everyone. He signed my copy of “Cloud Atlas” and my sister asked him to sign “Brideshead Revisited”. I also asked if I could take a picture with him. I felt really bad when I asked him. Because despite his obliging and gentle manner, I got the feeling that he must have been tired. He had just immersed himself completely in a different character for a 1 hour 30 minute-long play, then gone backstage only to be told that there was a small crowd waiting for him at the stage door. And despite everyone’s best intentions and his, he must have been at least a little tired of it, because he strikes me as a naturally private person and having to do this night after night must be very draining. And what made me love him even more was the fact that he looked every single person in the eye. He said “thank you”, he listened, he nodded and smiled. He must have the patience of a saint, because he was so damn earnest. It’s hard to describe because I’m sure that many actors probably do the same thing, but Ben makes you feel that he really cares about what you say.
Yet here I was, just another faceless member of a crowd, standing at the stage door asking for a picture. Part of me wanted to leave him in peace, and the other part was screaming out “Don’t leave! When are you ever going to get this opportunity again?” Naturally I listened to the latter voice because I don’t think I ever would have forgiven myself for walking away. But as he looked at me attentively, with his deep green eyes and said “thank you”, I felt an overwhelming urge to hug him and thank him for being such a brilliant and inspiring actor. But that would have been inappropriate, so instead I thanked him, then walked away making gibberish noises to my sister who was pissed at me because I had made her stand outside in the cold when she was suffering from flu. Whoops.