Review: Peter and Alice by John Logan (starring Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw) – Noel Coward theatre

Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw in rehearsals. Photo Marc Brenner.

Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw in rehearsals. Photo Marc Brenner.

Are any children born with an intrinsic love for money? I don’t know why this thought popped to my head as John Logan’s Peter and Alice finished. The play has no materialistic obsessions. But it deals with the passage to the adult world, and money is an entirely adult concept.

It is 1932. Alice Liddell Hargreaves is 80. Peter Llewelyn Davies is 35. They meet for the first time. These two people have a unique bond, everyone is connected to their childhood. But they are not connected to theirs. Peter Davies is desperate to understand the missing links. Alice Hargreaves knows not to be desperate for anything.

John Logan’s play is focused on the passage to adulthood: From a place of moral, intellectual and emotional clarity we move backwards to a place of pain and confusion. What do we actually learn or know to do better?

There are many powerful elements in the play, not least the performances and unravelling the past with an explorer’s eye for adventure (the past is indeed another country). Continue reading

John Logan’s Red in Los Angeles (or What Jonathan Groff did next)

Jonathan Groff as Ken and Alfred Molina as Mark Rothko. Photo Craig Schwartz

When I first saw Jonathan Groff in Glee, I didn’t pay much attention to him. There is much young talent in Glee and he didn’t seem much different. But a couple of years later, he showed up in Deathtrap at the West End, and anyone who can go toe to toe with Simon Russell Beale, it’s worth keeping an eye on. In some ways, I was even more impressed when I saw him in the one off performance of the 24 Hour plays at the Old Vic a few weeks later. With uneven material and very little rehearsal (as it’s inevitably the case in occasions like that), he still made a great impression. Since then, he went back to New York to appear in the off Broadway production of The Submission (playing another, if quite different, playwright than the one in the Deathtrap), went back to Glee and also has another recurring role in the political drama series Boss.

His latest role on stage is not quite on british soil (as I would have liked) but the connection with Britain is strong: Michael Grandage goes back to John Logan’s play Red, directing it this time at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, with Alfred Molina reprising his Donmar (and Broadway) role as Mark Rothko and Jonathan Groff playing Rothko’s young assistant Ken (in the original production the role was played by Ed Redmayne). The press night was this past Sunday and the reviews make for interesting reading: Continue reading