Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: My Friend Peter, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Susan Mansfield.
When five actors, in a cramped airless space right at the top of C Nova, launch into a musical retelling of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, you might be forgiven for thinking you’ve wandered into a children’s show by mistake. But while older children will enjoy My Friend Peter, it is much more than that.
Hookhitch Theatre – which produced This Was The World and I Was King, inspired by the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson, on the Fringe in 2013 – returns with a beautifully structured piece of theatre about the life of Beatrix Potter, which also happens to include some of her most famous stories.
The idea of writing and illustrating children’s stories was “just a silly amusement” when she created Peter Rabbit for Noel, the young son of her former governess. But it was he who encouraged her to see that the stories could have a wider appeal. After rejection by several publishers, she met Norman Warne of Warne & Co, who published The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and with whom she gradually fell in love. His sudden death, a month after their engagement, nearly ended her writing career until her decision to begin a new life in the Lake District brought a measure of healing.
Casey Jay Andrews’s play (she also wrote This Was The World) has a certain Victorian formality about its language which might feel contrived were it not entirely in keeping with the restrained schoolmarm-ish Miss Potter. The show is finely balanced between conveying the emotional truth of the writer’s life, spliced with occasionally madcap performances of her stories. That it maintains that balance so well, while seamlessly blending original songs into the action, suggests that Hookhitch’s homespun aesthetic conceals some very accomplished theatre-making.
C Nova (Venue 145) until 31 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 14 August 2015
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