For a family show with a difference this festive season, Peppa Pig and friends inhabit the Criterion theatre until January and, unlike many Christmas-themed kids’ shows in the West End opening this month, Peppa Pig is opening birthday presents rather than stockings and the sun is shining.
Coming in from an icy London, it almost seems surreal to see Peppa Pig’s human friend Daisy dressed in three-quarter length trousers and t-shirt, with no hint of thermals hiding beneath. But once your eyes have adjusted to the candyfloss pink and dandelion yellow of Peppa Pig’s cartoon world, you are more than ready to join the little pig’s friends on a birthday adventure.
Full of jokes, games and audience participation – parents should be advised to wear dancing shoes – Peppa Pig’s Party invites everyone to celebrate the famous pig’s birthday with the energetic cast on stage. Beginning with a game of hide and seek, when Peppa Pig finally jumps out to reveal herself, the reaction from the children in the audience is on a par with what you would expect if Judi Dench suddenly appeared on stage halfway through the Criterion theatre’s evening performance of The 39 Steps.
Apart from Daisy, who leads the action and is always on hand to teach a new dance move or lyrics to a selection of annoyingly catchy songs – admittedly Peppa Pig hit The Bing Bong song can get a bit tricky towards the second verse – Peppa Pig, Suzy Sheep, Emily Elephant and friends are portrayed by cute, chubby puppets operated by company members who voice them with suitably high-pitched voices and embody the characters’ excitable emotions.
Sized according to age, Peppa Pig’s younger brother George is tiny but powerful, with projectile tears that soak the first three rows of the audience every time he breaks into sobs. At the other end of the scale, Daddy Pig, who claims to be an expert at everything but is often more than a trifle confused, is a rotund giant compared to Peppa Pig and his sweet animal friends.
Packed to the brim with magic, nature, incessant giggling and snorting, Peppa Pig is to family life what Sex And The City is to young women. It may not be entirely realistic – where is the irritable bickering when Daddy Pig breaks the train or Peppa Pig comes home in muddy party clothes? – but it adds a fun, colourful sheen to familiar characters and subjects we can all relate to.
For those wary of seeing a show this festive season without actual festivity involved, fear not. When Peppa Pig’s Party is over, there’s always time for one last sing-song and this time you might just find yourself Jingle-Belling with the pig herself.