Theatre Review: Classics Revisited

Over the holidays, we had the opportunity to compare and contrast two children’s classics performed onstage. ‘Peter Pan’ at the National Theatre and ‘The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ (based on Alice in Wonderland) in a collaboration between the Royal Ballet and Zoonation. Instead of giving you my personal reviews of the two shows, I will let my older son do the talking. This is the one who likes both watching and participating in theatrical productions, but usually merely grunts: ‘Yeah, fine’ when I ask him what he thinks of something. For you, dear blog readers, he has agreed to be more eloquent on this occasion…

Scenes from the production, from
Scenes from the production, from

Peter Pan

‘The pictures advertising the show and the set we saw when doing the backstage tour earlier that day made me expect a very modern version of Peter Pan, but actually it was just the usual old one, with very few extra twists. Yes, Mrs. Darling played Captain Hook, and the staging was very modern, full of recycled materials, but I was hoping for some alternative storytelling. Perhaps the Lost Boys could have been from a deprived council estate, struggling to grow up and find things to play with. The pirates could have been a drug gang.

I also found the whole musical thing unnecessary. The lyrics were bad and barely audible, and the songs themselves were not very hummable or memorable. It was also muddled about exactly what age group it was for: too serious for little ones, but too many childish jokes for older ones.

OK, maybe I’m being a bit grumpy because I was tired after a whole day in London and had a bit of a headache. There were some good bits: the performances were generally good, especially Captain Hook; there were some really funny moments (Tinkerbell); and the flying and special effects and sets and props were all great.’

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

From the Evening Standard.
From the Evening Standard.

‘This was the exact opposite of the Peter Pan show: very original idea of setting the characters in an asylum and showing all sorts of mental health issues. It was unexpected, but executed very well, mostly through hip-hop dancing. The message is not told to you: you have to deduce it. Wonderland is the place that accepts all people, with all disabilities, but not everyone wants to go there.

It was all far too dark for the younger kids in the audience though, but if you were at least 10 or over, it was very good fun. Great music, very acrobatic and energetic dancing, and, though it was quite sad in the first half, it finished in a very upbeat way. They could have pulled fewer people on the stage at the end, though, as it was a bit embarrassing for them, but other than that… Really liked it! Sick!’

Peter Pan is playing until the 4th of February at the National Theatre (Olivier), while The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (Roundhouse) closes after the 22nd of January.



28 thoughts on “Theatre Review: Classics Revisited”

    1. It was a big shock to me, as I was expecting to take him to a ballet (bought the tickets via the Royal Ballet site), but it was much more fun for him – and I really enjoyed it too!

  1. Excellent pieces – thanks for getting your offspring to give us his views. And he’s got very good points about PP – you should either do a proper update or do it in its original form. Interesting too how he thinks that certain things wouldn’t work for certain ages – I wonder if the theatres are not pitching their shows very accurately?

    1. They didn’t have age recommendations, as far as I’m aware, for either show, so I saw lots of people with very young children at both (who probably wouldn’t have enjoyed either that much). Now, as with books, I’m not a huge fan of ‘Prescribed Age’, but it would do no harm to be there as a guideline, so parents can make up their own minds if it’s suitable for their specific children or not. My older son was riveted by theatre from the age of 2, while the younger one is still unsure and only likes certain kind of things.

    1. I had seen them perform at the Olympics (on TV) but didn’t realise they also did proper theatre shows. I didn’t think hip-hop was varied enough to sustain a whole show, but they certainly did!

  2. Well one of out two… I’m on the fence about updating. I’ve seen so many versions which have been updated and RUINED. It takes someone w/ a special genius to be able to pull it off.

    1. I agree, but given the choice, I tend to prefer the brave experiment, even if it fails, rather than the overly safe same-old, same-old. We then watched the Peter Pan Goes Wrong version on TV and they really loved that! (But it was slapstick).

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