Theatre Review: Peppa Pig’s Surprise! by Anna Morell (5 Stars)

Peppa Pig's Surprise!

I’m almost vegan these days. I have one caveat: bacon. But only if it’s made from Peppa Pig. Or really, her family. Seriously, what is there to like about her tiny irritating brother who can only respond ‘Dinosaur, grrr!’ to anything? Or Daddy Pig, whose hobo-scruffy beard, sense of self-importance and total absence of intelligence grate on me like nutmeg on metal. Or Mummy Pig, who just doesn’t get that she can do so much better than this?

What’s there to like? It would seem, quite a lot. It’s a packed house for Peppa’s second theatrical tour. Something you don’t always see, even with the best children’s shows. And the kids are absolutely enraptured from curtain up to the very end.

There’s the plot of a board book. Meet friends, have a bath, go to bed, get up, go to the beach, dance. But there’s also Daisy, a human character in red t-shirt, dungarees and bunches bouncing around, driving things on, as la famille Pig bounce around her.

The pigs, and their friends (Danny Dog, Suzy Sheep and Pedro Pony), are amazing. Wheeled, jiggling puppets about two-thirds the size of Daisy, with the exception of Mummy and Daddy pig who are costumed actors in ginormous suits. Daddy towers over Daisy. He’s almost the stuff of nightmares, but everything is so silly, and so strangely lifelike, it works.

Things kick off with the Bing Bong song, and the singing carries on with adaptations of We’re Going On A Lion Hunt and She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain. It’s all rather fun. The entire audience joins in on call and response sections, and sings along with a zeal I’ve not seen since the days of Mrs Mills.

The staging is simple but brilliant – blocky flats exactly like the scenery in the TV show, but mounted on triangular prisms that can rotate to create a new scene like someone flicking round a row of children’s toys.

The show is basically a ticklist of everything the under-5s love: singing, dancing, playing hide and seek, being super-happy, muddy puddles, having friends, blowing bubbles, bedtime stories, going on an exciting trip, and more dancing. And Mr Potato, who turns up most randomly, adding a surreal touch of wake-up WTF for any parents lulled into a doze by the darkness of the theatre and the comforting familiarity of it all.

The highlight of the whole show is the rockpool sequence, where the pitch-black is punctured by a parade of neon dancing sea creatures. It’s 70s TV simple, and magical as Christmas. Although the slightly manic song and dance finale, which saw the entire house on its feet dancing along like it was New Year’s Eve comes a close second. Quite the sight.

The pacing is perfect. The puppets are perfect. I concede. The Peppa Pig’s Surprise! live show is absolutely perfect. Who needs bacon anyway?

Peppa Pig’s Surprise is on at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre until Sunday 25 October, then at The Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells from 13-14 April 2016, then The Woodville, Gravesend from 15-16 April and The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury from 15-16 June.