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Review: PEPPA PIG BEST DAY EVER, Theatre Royal Haymarket

Review: PEPPA PIG BEST DAY EVER, Theatre Royal Haymarket

A Christmas treat for toddlers playing a limited West End run

3 stars

Peppa Pig is planning an awesome day out and everyone's invited to join in the fun. Rounding off a UK and Ireland tour, Peppa Pig Best Day Ever is at Theatre Royal Haymarket for a limited run this Christmas. Featuring everyone's favourite characters plus a very special festive guest, the production (produced by Fierylight, in partnership with Hasbro Inc.) offers the youngest of audiences their very first taste of a West End show.

Peppa (Alice De-Warrenne), George (Melanie Ann), Mummy Pig (Charlie Culkin) and Daddy Pig (Rhys Ashcroft) are off on a road trip with human friend, Daisy (Lizzie Burder). After a roadwork-induced hiatus, they're soon scrambling around caves, gobbling ice-cream and scouring a castle in search of a dragon. Plenty of familiar friends pop up along the way, including Suzie Sheep, Danny Dog, Gerald Giraffe and the omnipresent jack of all trades, Miss Rabbit. And it finishes, of course, with everyone jumping in muddy puddles after the castle car park springs a leak.

It's a good opportunity for very young children to experience a big theatre production in a relaxed environment, with familiar characters. Energetic Lizzie Burder gives CBeebies presenter vibes as she leads the children in an almost endless stream of sing-songs. There is a decent mix of original songs (with music by Mani Svavarsson and lyrics by Matt Lewis) and familiar classics, although at times it feels more like a toddler music class than a West End show.

The bright colours are visually stimulating and have even the tiniest children gazing at the stage in awe. Peppa, George and their young friends take the form of cute bouncy puppets (designed by Karl Evans Studio) while the adult pigs are played by people in giant bulbous costumes which manage to stay on the right side of the line between fun and terrifying. A large dragon puppet strays ever so slightly across this line, drawing a mix of giggles and excited screams. Fun lighting (by Matt Haskins) during the cave scene also goes down especially well.

Love it or hate it, there can't be many parents of toddlers who deny the power of Peppa Pig. Unfortunately, those who fall in the "love it" camp may be disappointed to discover that the stage show lacks the adult humour of the cartoon. Unlike children's TV, which is often watched by children on their own, children's theatre should be designed as a shared experience. You can hardly plonk a toddler in a West End theatre and then go off to do the ironing! The best children's theatre offers something for the adults to enjoy too and it's a particular shame that Peppa Pig doesn't, given the potential of the source material.

The production is also quite long, particularly in comparison to the short episodes of Peppa Pig (although admittedly many children will be used to binge-watching them). It's unusual for a show aimed at toddlers to have an interval, and a cynic might suggest that this is engineered purely to encourage the purchase of ice cream, cuddly toys and the brightly coloured flashing things that many small fists brandish enthusiastically during the action.

Less cynically, the interval does give children the full theatre experience but quite a few became restless during the break at the press performance and seemed disengaged at the start of the second act. Classic children's theatre tricks are used effectively to regain their attention, however, including water pistols and a sprinkling of snow. Top tip - go for front stalls tickets to experience the magic or avoid them if you don't want to get wet!

Peppa Pig Best Day Ever may not be the best show ever but, judging by the happy little faces flooding out of the theatre, it's still a hit amongst Peppa's most devoted fans.

Peppa Pig Best Day Ever at Theatre Royal Haymarket until 1 January 2023

Photo Credit: Dan Tsantilis

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