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WOS Outing: Whishaw & Dench on Peter & Alice

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Last night 125 eager Whatsonstage.com theatregoers took to the Noël Coward Theatre for Peter and Alice, the second production in the Michael Grandage Company season. It reunites Dame Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw following their appearance in the most recent Bond film Skyfall. The pair let on however, at our post-show Q&A, that they'd never actually met during filming. Strangely, Dench and Whishaw aren't this plays only connection to Skyfall, John Logan its writer also penned this new play which imagines the conversation between Alice Liddell Hargreaves (the original Alice in Wonderland) and Peter Llewelyn Davies (the original Peter Pan) when they met briefly in 1932.

Reality and enchantment collide as the worlds of Neverland and Wonderland meet and we learn more about the men that made these worlds and the effect they had on the children that inspired them. Is fairytale as innocent as it seems? Is there a moment you become an adult? Does our past rule our present and future? All these questions are explored and assumptions challenged as Alice, played beautifully by Dench and Peter, skillfully bought to life by Whishaw, swap tales of lives lived in the shadow of some of literature's most famous characters. Logan's play neatly entwines the words of the original texts into this piece lending them a moving sense of hyper-reality while Christopher Oram's set seamlessly merges the two worlds making them seem almost one.

Following this moving 90 minute piece we were joined by director Michael Grandage, Dame Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw for a fascinating Q&A. Grandage spoke first of the season as a whole which includes a diverse range of shows and aims to bring in new and different audiences in part thanks to the £10 seats that were offered at the beginning of the booking period. He also spoke of his future plans, he aims to challenge himself with new and different types of work having explored building-based work, first in Sheffield and then at the Donmar, for fifteen years.

When Dame Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw joined us we were able to dig deeper into the play itself. Both Dench and Whishaw agreed to the roles without much hesitation, Dench having had it read to her as her weakened eyesight makes it difficult for her to read small typeset. This challenge however ensures she learns the piece in advance of rehearsal (as did Whishaw) which Grandage admits makes his job easier, the five week rehearsal period can then be spent not in line-learning but in really grasping the relationships and meanings within the script. It wasn't all technical talk, Dench and Whishaw gave an insight into actors reactions to bad behaviour in audiences from coughing to photo-taking and also answered whether they'd read "Alice in Wonderland" and "Peter Pan" to children now they knew the darker side to the story - a resounding yes from both.

You can see all our twitter coverage of the event here as well as a list of our upcoming events, including the remaining productions in the new Grandage season here. We hope to see you soon and if you joined us last night do let us know your favourite insights by emailing [email protected].

Laura Norman
Whatsonstage.com Theatre Club Manager

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