My name’s Matthew, and my toddler’s a Peppa-holic. Not a day goes by without a request to watch the playful porcine’s adventures.
So it was with a mixture of trepidation and excitement that I took him to the Criterion theatre to experience Peppa and pals in all their live glory.
Audiences who, like me, are well acquainted with the televisual might of Peppa, her love of cavorting in muddy puddles and her group of animal friends, will pretty much know what to expect from the show, though, for my liking, there was not enough of Daddy Pig, the goateed butt of so many a joke.
The difference here is that the 2D TV characters you know far too well are replaced by perfect arm-dwelling replicas for the stage show. As with its more adult puppety predecessor Avenue Q, you quickly forget about the all-in-black puppeteers providing movement and speech for the felty friends, getting carried along on a stream of cheery songs, voiceover narration and surprises. There’s even a hint of War Horse in some of the more avian puppets, but with a far more primary coloured pallet.
The show, which has tagged on a seasonal finale for its winter run, has the feel of a sanitised pantomime, which sounds derogatory but is quite the opposite. By aiming solely at a pre/primary school crowd, it keeps in all the songs and participation – including a rolled-on songsheet – actions and shouting, and even a section of luminous dancing, but feels no need to add in any innuendo or topical references for the adults. It’s ideal for its target audience, and Pep-parents – I’m sure that’s the term for those of us whose lives can change at the whim of a cartoon pig – will have a wry smile at the dry wit of the narrator – “that is not the treasure, that is a jam jar” – and the multi-tasking Miss Rabbit.
The one glaring difference to its televisual counterpart – for those who are worried about such things… including my toddler – is the arrival of Daisy, the only human in Peppa’s world, who sidelines the porky protagonist, leading the audience through the adventure to find buried treasure. She has four limbs and a face that moves, so it is easier for her to work the crowd, and if you’re a Peppa virgin she’s a friendly, human face.
An added point, not about the show, but about the staff at the Criterion. They couldn’t be more helpful for those of us trying to negotiate a tricky theatre for buggies and littl’uns. There wasn’t a hint of cynicism from any of them during my visit – and it would be very easy to be cynical – in fact, they seemed a little disappointed if you didn’t let them help.
As it’s the season for cracker jokes, I don’t feel in the slightest bit embarrassed to describe Peppa Pig’s Treasure Hunt as the perfect oinkment for any toddler’s winter blues.