Breathlessly giddy hop through Covent Garden with Beatrix Potter and friends
Following the success of last summer's Blenheim Palace show - read our review here - Peter Rabbit has hopped back for another adventure, this time in the heart of London’s Covent Garden Piazza.
We were invited to the launch of Histrionic Productions’ immersive, Easter experience, which brings Beatrix Potter’s world to life through puppetry and immersive performance in a brand new show, which runs until 16 April, with London’s most iconic market as its stage. The children taking part are presented with yellow bunny ears to wear throughout the 60-minute adventure, as parents follow them and a young Beatrix in a breathlessly giddy quest around Covent Garden to rescue Jemima Puddle-Duck. We follow clues, maps and secret notes and meet dastardly Mr McGregor, Benjamin Bunny, Squirrel Nutkin, Jeremy Fisher, Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and finally, Jemima Puddle-Duck herself.
Nestled in Floral Street’s cobbles is the flower-festooned, Chestnut Bakery, where we eat an enormous and life-affirming apple crumble croissant, before heading upstairs to meet a young Beatrix Potter and begin our adventure. The children sit on little piles of books as various radish-pilfering Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail puppets leap about and reveal that Jemima Puddle-Duck has been swiped by pesky old McGregor. And so begins our quackers quest.
The setting for this version is much more modern than last year’s, replacing Blenheim Palace's picturesque and timeless gardens and potting sheds with the buzzing, shop-addled streets of London. The actor’s costumes have also been updated, swapping Potter’s lace and bonnet for dungarees. But the revamp is necessary and works perfectly in this new, Big Smoke adventure. It's exciting for both young and old eyes to see this tourist hotspot in a totally new light, with wholesome surprises, secrets and characters popping up around every corner.
Highlights include a deliciously daft Benjamin Bunny scene in a special farmyard pen, right in the heart of the Piazza, which has the children cackling like mad old drunks.
Beatrix also gives the children a street masterclass in hiding from Mr McGregor, and the bunny-eared children delight in approaching the villain of the tale as he works on his tractor, freezing whenever he turned around.
The enthusiastic (and incredibly patient) actors captivate all of the children and the puppets were utterly charming and lifelike - made to resemble mended, well-loved treasures from another time. The show approaches its dramatic crescendo when McGregor lures and locks our tiny team of bunny detectives in his shed, where we discover poor Jemima being forced to fire out endless eggs into a bizarre machine. Thankfully, the children find keys and we make our escape, scampering across Covent Garden to the lively grand finale - we won’t share any spoilers, except to say that it’s a high octane climax with all of Potter’s most-loved characters.
The children can then wind down in the Peter Rabbit art and craft “activity burrow", while the parents grab coffee, before exiting through the gift shop, cradling stuffed bunnies.
And if they need another hit of Peter action before heading home, they can enjoy additional activities, including Mr McGregor’s Obstacle Course for thrill-seeking children who want to test their driving skills in a mini ROVER for ages four and above.
Families also have the opportunity to clamber onto Mr McGregor’s tractor and have a souvenir photograph taken with the lettuce-bothering bunny himself.
The experience touches upon the life of the author, whose story and illustrations were famously rejected by six publishers, until she finally decided to publish them herself, with 250 copies which proved so popular, Frederick Warne and Co. (one of the publishers that had originally rejected the book) decided to publish it. She had originally written the stories (inspired by her pet bunny, Peter) in a series of letters to her governess’s ill son in 1893. The stories have since been translated into nearly 40 different languages and sold more than 45 million copies in the past 120 years, and it was lovely to see a new generation of little, bunny-eared fans falling in love with her characters 121 years later, in a very different London than Potter experienced.
Peter Rabbit Easter Adventure, Chestnut Bakery, 24 Floral Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DS. Until 16th April (Closed 11 April and all Mondays except Easter Monday 10 April) £25.30 pp. Under 2s £6.60pp