Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

More cheers than shock for Peter

Shockheaded Peter

Stage 2

The Crescent Studio


I GET the feeling that if Stage 2 did a one man show it would have a cast of at least 30.

With Shockheaded Peter there was a dispute, among the reviewing team as to whether there were 46, as per programme, or 48 as per head count, on stage at various times; whatever the final count it was an industrial strength crowd and all credit to director Lucy Bailey-Wright in that it was never a mob but always a well-oiled machine of a cast.

Shockheaded Peter is based on Der Struwwelpeter, a popular German children's book by Heinrich Hoffman dating from 1845 which tells the tales, in rhyme, of mischievous children and the dire consequences of bad behaviour.

Dr Hoffman  does not do gentle nursry rhymes it seems, indeed had he done Mary Had a little lamb you feel sure it would have involved at the very least a psychopathic wolf or a barbecue.

Peter was one of the gentler stories and the opener. As the audience enter they are confronted by a line of 19 young people on a line of 20 wooden cubes. The young cast carry on as if no one is there slowly becoming  noisier and more animated as showtime approaches until Peter, (Alice Bettis Marsh) hair the size of Dudley and finger nails down to her ankle, appears and walks along the line of boxes as the other 19  principal cast recite his tale.

Fairly simple moral really. If you  neglect personal hygiene than people tend to avoid you. Peter was one of the lucky ones. Conrad Suck a Thumb(Khalid Daley) was told thumbsucking had dire consequences. Did he listen?  Did he hack and along came a tailor and cut off both thumbs with a giant pair of shears to produce ribbons of blood.

Then there was Harriet (Laura Dowsett)who was told not to play with matches – vain hope that was. The result was a 41 man fire and four frightened kittens as she burned to  . . . well nothing with all that remained being her red shoes.


James (Oliver Johnson) froze solid from eating too much ice cream while Augustus  (Gabriel Hudson) stops eating his soup so wastes away and dies.

Verity (Meg Luesley) is one of those know it all types no one really likes. She makes the mistake of telling a magician she knows how all his tricks are done, except the last one of course, when he makes her vanish.

Then there is Fidgety Phillip (Aidan Richards), Cruel Frederick (George Hannigan) and Hateful Georgia (Emaan Durrani)and Caring Mary (Anna Ryan) who change bodies and can't change back again. Ruthless Mike (Lucy Baines) and Reckless John (Ella Swarbrick) give their governess vanishing cream only to find they can't hide from her when she is invisible!.

There is Janet (Eva Bolt), Foolish Phillipa (Sarah Middlemiss), Victor (Ethan Tarr) and the halibut, Disobedient David (Annabelle Quirin), Patricia in London (Rosie Nisbet), Flying Bobby (Priya Edwards) and Fartin Martin (Jonni Dowsett) whose flatulence problem creates green smoke and eventually a jet propelled flight and crash while Johnny head in Air (Mark  James) doesn't look where he is going.

The 20 lead roles are on stage all the time and never missed a beat or a cue and moved the 20 cubes around like clockwork, setting a new scene for each of the characterisations, including some written by the group themselves. They even kept track of the cubes that were really boxes, holding props, not only knowing where they were but what they contained. An impressive feat.

Breaking the studio up into quarters of 24 seats each with the action in a cross between opened up the stage to produce virtually four plays at once with each of the four audiences being given a different view and perspective.

As a piece of theatre Peter is interesting and entertaining and is a chance to showcase a range of talents and abilities, both on and offstage, but more importantly it provides a stage for 46, or was it 48 youngsters who brought enthusiasm in life to the studio and to their credit, you could hear every word. As always Stage 2 were first class.

Roger Clarke 

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