You can only possibly like this show if you are two or three years old, which is fine, that’s who it’s meant for: it’s The Muppets for moppets, Avenue Q for toddlers, Teletubbies for tinies.
Peppa Pig on television is a huge franchise now, its animated line drawings of Peppa and her pals permeating the media like a friendly fog. In this wildly successful touring stage version, playing morning and afternoon dates at the labyrinthine, cosy Criterion on Piccadilly Circus, Peppa has a birthday party. And yes, guess what, we’re all invited…
Peppa and her piggy family – mum, dad and hyper-sensitive brother, George, who spurts tears all over the front stalls – are big round piggy heads manipulated by visible actors in black shirts and trousers. The pigs look like armadillos with brutal nose jobs; the actors, like rejects from War Horse, or audition fodder for children’s television.
Led by Charlotte Sullivan’s ingratiating Playschool-style compère, we toddle off to Peppa Pig land for a cake-baking session after the sleepover in garden tents and a train journey on the nature trail: puff, puff, and off we go, piggy heads bumping up and down, actors jolly well jollying us along.
There is a really beautiful interlude on a butterfly farm, something so beautiful no two-year-old who remembers it will ever forget. There is rain, jumping in muddy puddles, and we get up and dance along with piggy Peppa and her porky pals.
Mister Misterio does some magic tricks and we all live happily ever after, with a final chorale of “Jingle Bells” to see us on our way… It’s fine as far as it goes, but no sign here of any innovation in the way we make theatre for little’uns beyond pandering to their prejudices: Peppa Pig’s Party is just what they want. Personally, I’d rather see something a little edgier, such as Sooty.