We Join Beatrix Potter at Blenheim Palace to rescue Peter from a pie-shaped fate
This summer, Beatrix Potter’s world is being brought to life through puppetry and immersive performance at Blenheim Palace’s beautiful, walled gardens, where children are invited to become the stars of the Peter Rabbit Garden Adventure, rescuing the radish-pilfering bunny from Mr McGregor’s pie-flavoured scheme.
We were invited to the launch of the immersive experience, which marks 120 years of everybody’s favourite lettuce-botherer and runs until 3 September.
A young Beatrix greeted us to set the scene for the adventure, and the next 50 minutes were spent with breathlessly giddy children following her through greenhouses, vegetable gardens and potting sheds previously not open to the public. They searched laundry and dug up carrot patches for clues, hid in enormous plant pots from the dastardly McGregor (who was deaf to their giggles) and met characters including Jemima Puddle-Duck, Benjamin Bunny, Squirrel Nutkin, Jeremy Fisher and finally, Peter Rabbit himself.
The enthusiastic (and incredibly patient) actors captivated all of the children and artfully dodged off-topic kiddie discussion about favourite cereals or how stripy their t-shirts were.
And the puppets were utterly charming and lifelike - made to resemble mended, well-loved treasures from another time. They leapt through each picturesque setting and interacted with children - my daughter is still telling anybody who looks her way that she dug up a worm and fed it to a ravenous, Jeremy Fisher.
Keys are found, chains are broken with bolt cutters and gates are leapt over in the dramatic crescendo of the story, with Mr McGregor in hot pursuit of the tiny team of adventurers as they rescue the mischievous rabbit and take him to safety, where the story ends. The children can then wind down in the Peter Rabbit art and craft room, before exiting through the gift shop, cradling stuffed bunnies.
Afterwards there are a series of children’s play areas and a beautiful lavender garden that families can enjoy, as well as a maze - which we recommend doing after the experience, to avoid missing your slot trapped behind foliage. The Peter Rabbit ticket also gives a 50% discount if you wish to extend your day out by exploring Blenheim Palace - with over 300 years of history it was the birthplace and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill and is currently home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough.
Throughout the experience, the young Beatrix reminds children that “people don’t like my storytelling," in a nod to the real-life 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, proving that people really do like her storytelling, especially in Blenheim Palace’s unique, new experience.
Peter Rabbit Garden Adventure: A Live Immersive Experience. Until 3 September at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, Woodstock OX20 1PP