REVIEW: Where is Peter Rabbit? (Theatre Royal, Haymarket)

Kids Week is finally upon us! This is excellent for a number of reasons. The first being that two weeks of the summer holidays have already passed (not that Mummy’s counting). The second is that Kids Week marks the start of stagey summer, in which a huge array of family friendly shows offer free tickets for small humans. The third is that Kids Week is in fact an entire month. While many of the big West End shows sold out almost instantly when tickets went on sale earlier this year, there are still plenty of bargains to be had. And so on Monday we hopped off to Haymarket in search of Peter Rabbit.

Where is Peter Rabbit? is a musical adventure based on five of Beatrix Potter’s classic children’s stories. Devised by Roger Glossop, the show is set within the world of Jemima Puddle-Duck, with Glossop’s set based on Beatrix Potter’s watercolour depictions of that story. It begins with a misunderstanding between Beatrix Potter, who has lost a drawing of Peter Rabbit, and Jemima Puddle-Duck, who heads off in search of the real rabbit. As Jemima flies over the Lake District, she ducks into the worlds of Mr Jeremy Fisher, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Mr Tod and finally Peter Rabbit himself. There is a nice balance of stories within the five selected, with the quaint and sleepy Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle offset by the livelier Tale of Peter Rabbit and the more sinister Tale of Mr Tod. Even the Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck is darker than Mummy remembered, but light relief is provided by the repeated comedic moments involving Peter and his nemesis Mr McGregor. The regular shift in energy helped to retain the attention of the children throughout (and ensured Mrs Mummy – notorious for nodding off – caught some of every story).

The animals are played by an impressive team of puppeteers, while Beatrix Potter and Mr McGregor take human form. Music and movement are artfully combined to delight the young audience, with narration by the voices of Griff Rhys Jones and Myleene Klass supplementing the on-stage antics. Mummy wasn’t convinced that this addition was necessary. The talented cast of performers on the stage were more than capable of telling the tale, and it seems unlikely that the children of the audience would recognise the celebrity voices. If she’s honest, Mummy didn’t particularly notice this either, and it certainly wasn’t a factor in her decision to buy tickets. She much prefered the live performances, particularly the singing. The munchkins were also at their happiest when clapping along to the upbeat musical numbers from Steven Edis and Alan Ayckbourn.

Where is Peter Rabbit? is a nice trip down memory lane for adults who grew up reading Beatrix Potter stories and a lovely way to share those stories with their own children. It’s a great introduction to live theatre for the very young, with just the right amount of audience participation to keep them engaged. And for that, Mummy awards it a rating of Raindrops, Whiskers and Kettles (aka 3 out of 5 of my favourite things).