Peter’s and Alice’s last date: Ben Whishaw and Judi Dench bid farewell to the Noel Coward theatre

Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw, after a performance on the set of Peter and Alice

Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw, after a performance on the set of Peter and Alice

I don’t go enough to last nights. I am far too impatient and the lure of previews is strong. (There is no elation like experiencing a great new play when hardly anyone, definitely not the people who shaped it, knows how great it is). But the joy of theatre is that every night is different and as previews have a fresh edgy excitement, performances later in the run have maturity and depth.

On the other hand, last nights have a delicious bittersweet recklessness where the play often breaks free, some times with revelatory results. And more than any other performance, there is conspiracy in the air, actors and audience together in an end-of-the-world party. John Logan’s Peter and Alice had its last performance last night, and while the play is still not perfect (occasionally getting backed into a corner as much as its characters), the performance was a joy and a fitting farewell to a production that brought together Ben Whishaw and Judi Dench, two of Britain’s most luminous stage stars, a couple of generations apart but so close in every other way.

The performance had all the essentials of a last night: from the few members of the audience who started applauding at Ben Whishaw’s entrance (I can only assume they were americans), to the elderly gentleman behind me who excitedly whispered “there she is” at Judi Dench’s first appearance.

From then on, the funny bits were funnier than ever and the emotional bits more emotional. Olly Alexander was on fire, landing every line with perfect comic timing and insouciant charm, helped by a responsive and generous audience. Ben Whishaw seemed to choke in tears, and was there a moment we thought he wouldn’t be able to go on?

The curtain call, complete with an unsurprising standing ovation, found most of the cast welling up. Another thing about last nights, they can be drunkenly sentimental. No regrets. Outside, crates with The Cripple of Inishmaan label were stacked up, empty lorries were ready to take the dismantled set away. Peter and Alice is out, Daniel Radcliffe is in. Bring it on.

Note: the photo is not from last night, but from a Q&A on May 7th. Taken with permission.

Revstan took some deliciously teasing photos of set and props arriving at the theatre on Sunday morning.

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