The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck
- Thom Dibdin
- 15 August 2017
Plummy accents, over-egged singing and clichéd delivery undo a musical take on Beatrix Potter
Two of Beatrix Potter's best known tales are brought to musical life in a storytelling production which uses music and song to help enhance and expand on Potter's original.
The music, by Stephen McNeff, is evocative enough. He uses the different instruments of the very excellent Children's Classic Concerts Festival Ensemble to provide motifs and themes which certainly give extra colour to the narrative.
Soprano Michelle Todd, done out in tight blue jacket and tweedy, bustled skirts, tells the two stories of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck, each augmented even further with a bundle of songs that stitch rhymes about the characters onto the narrative.
There is much here to get our hopes up that it will do justice to its source material, but fears that it might not are first raised by MC Jimmy Jewell who introduces both Todd and the stories by giving Beatrix Potter the Once Upon A Time treatment – and thus reducing her to a part of the stories, not their creator.
Potter might be perceived as twee, and she certainly uses euphemism to talk about rural life, but she is not afraid of its life and death. In removing her from the frame, this risks sanitising her tales as much as the CBeebies cartoon does.
The fears are sadly proved to be well-founded with Todd's plummy delivery and her inability to do any accent with conviction. Simple and delighted delivery could have helped the overlong songs, but her operatic style over-eggs them into warbling inconsesequnce. A great opportunity missed.
Underbelly Circus Hub, until 26 Aug, noon, £11–£12 (£10–£11).