So I have been pretty absent lately. Been working a lot and sorting a lot of stuff out trying to move closer and closer to the goal! But I am back! And what a way to come back, but to share my experience of probably the best play I have EVER seen!
Peter and Alice, a Michael Grandage production, stars Dame Judi Dench, Ben Whishaw, Nicholas Farrell, Derek Riddell, Olly Alexander, and Ruby Bentall and Stefano Braschi. It tells the story of Alice Liddell Hargreaves and Peter Llewellyn Davies, who meet at the Lewis Carroll exhibition in 1932. We see our two favourite characters as real human beings. The real Peter Pan and the real Alice in Wonderland.
Their journey together, remembering and analysing their childhood, their friends, the authors, and their immortalisations takes the audience on an emotional roller-coaster. I found myself in fits of laughter and then in floods of tears. The realisation of growing up and losing one’s childhood. Alice was my inspiration, but Peter Llewellyn Davies was my truth.
The story was beautiful and enchanting. The writing and rhythm of the piece was perfection and the set design, simple in part but exquisite in reality. The direction of the piece was sublime. The movement on stage, the stillness, everything to the highest standard of superb theatre making. The performances, though, they were something else.
As soon as Ben Whishaw entered the stage - walking across in silence, fixing his hair, lighting a cigarette - you were transfixed. The air about this phenomenal actor is intoxicating. I had been mesmerised by him many times on screen, but him, in the flesh, I was almost floating. I felt so included the whole way through. Truly, as cliched as it sounds, transported. I was involved with this man, Peter, my heart beat with his. His story, resinated so close to my heart, I could hardly sit back in my seat.
Dame Judi Dench. She has a power on stage that as much as through her dialogue as through her silence you are glued to her. In the opening scene where they first encountered each other, the simple raise of her hand to her cheek sent shivers down my spine. She has a talent for detail. Her voice, is a voice that you wish you could have playing on loop for the rest of your days, and her delivery of lines is truly divine. And I don’t use that word lightly.
These two spectacular actors, never once did I think, the whole way through the performance, that I was watching Dame Judi or one Ben Whishaw. I was watching Peter and Alice. Two souls who had come together at a crucial time in their life. They met perfectly and their struggles and arguments and attempts to persuade one another were when, what seemed to be, the perfect times in their lives. These two, well, thinking about them, my eyes still fill with tears.
But the play was completed by the sheer genius of the other performers. The sadness and torment in Lewis Carroll, portrayed so excellently by the great Nicholas Farrell, was the depiction of beauty comes from tragedy. His love for Alice, so sweet but also so horrid. His struggle with himself over his feelings for this young girl, they made me weep. And Barrie, one James Barrie, so full of life, so full of the determination to make Peter young again, love life again. But the layers that slowly unravelled through the story. His love for the Davies boys, for the family. To reveal so much about a character in such a short period of time, I was in awe of these men and their abilities.
And the beautiful Ruby Bentall and Olly Alexander, what remarkable young actors. My favourite stories came to life in front of my eyes. Alice, the girl I had always wanted to be, so full of adventure and joy but also so full of sadness. She feels emotions so intensely and Bentall showed this excellently. And my first love, Peter Pan. He was the only boy I ever wanted to know in my childhood (and even now), was captured brilliantly by Alexander. His joy, his energy, his aura, so perfect, so inviting, and so heartbreaking. How we all wish to be, but how we will never be. And the charming Stefano Braschi. They say that Ann Hathaway won the oscar for her performance, because in the short amount of screen time she had, she was able to deliver such emotion and capture a whole character in such a way we would never forget. Well Braschi did the same for me. His pure presence on stage, especially his silence, was captivating. His posture, his air about him. When on stage you could not take your eyes off him. And his ability to change characters. He was two completely different people. But his scene with Barrie and Peter, performing the part of Michael Davies, how I wept. I was taken. And as he walked to the Blue Lagoon with Pan, holding each other, shivers went up my spine, goosebumps worked their way from my toes to my fingertips. I was spellbound.
These incredible actors, the brilliant script and phenomenal direction, created an experience for me that I will hold in my heart forever. Not just a theatre experience, but a life experience. I feel truly honoured and blessed that I was able to witness such beauty. If I am able to produce something half, a quarter, an eighth as enchanting, I will die a happy being. Thank you everyone who was involved in producing this piece of art. You have added something to my life that can never be taken away.