Reviewed by Dave Smith
Rob Croser has come up with a pure gem for Independent’s 100th production. Peter and Alice shows the subtle interaction of the present, the past and the fantasy worlds of the two children’s literature favourites of the title. This was a sustained performance, requiring high levels of ensemble work through its changes of mood and focus. The transitions were seamless.
The set was up to the company’s high standard and neatly framed the diverse threads of the multiple stories, based as they were on an actual encounter in a London bookshop of the two who inspired the original stories.
It was difficult to fault the intensity and concentrated characterisation of the cast. There were no weak links. Pam O’Grady was superb as the elderly Alice. She commanded attention at all times and adroitly combined some of the funniest lines in the play with the most subtle and controlled mood changes. Will Cox as the adult Peter was the perfect foil to Alice, bringing the character’s doubts and vulnerability clearly to the fore. As for the authors, Domenic Panuccio was convincing as Carroll, and David Roach used his experience and keen skills to bring JM Barrie fully to life. Ben Francis as Peter Pan and Emma Bleby as Alice in Wonderland showed exceptional control and understanding in their roles. The way they portrayed their characters’ empathy with their older selves was outstanding.
Independent chose a quirky and challenging play and brought us a performance far above the ordinary. It kept the opening night audience enthralled.