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Critics review round up for Ben Whishaw and Judi Dench's Peter and Alice

Ever since seeing the first performance of Peter and Alice I've been curious about what the critics would make of it. Chat on Twitter has been mixed - official channels naturally retweeting the effusive praise. I've also had three reasoned criticisms on my own review, which itself happened to be favourable. That the professionals reviews might be mixed was pretty much written on the cards and that does indeed seem to be the case, ranging from three to five stars.

Michael Billington, The Guardian ****

Billington felt the script was a little too studded with opposite views, describing it, quite cleverly I think, as 'not so much Q and M as Q and A'. However he adds: 'Where Logan succeeds is in portraying the pleasure and pain of becoming an iconically inspirational figure, and in providing two gift roles for actors.'

Quentin Letts, Daily Mail ***

Also had mixed views ultimately feeling that considering the plays subject matter about life and death lacked 'religious consideration' not something I can agree with as I don't think one necessarily leads to the other. Perhap he was just in the mood for something a bit more cheerful: 'But the play, while admirably high-minded and interesting, is inevitably a bit doom-laden. How can a story which looks back so much, not least on the losses of the First World War, be anything but sorrowful?'.

Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph ****

Generally a more favourable opinion picking up on Peter's telling comment about boy's not growing up:

'The losses both characters endured during the First World War are movingly captured, and though Dench is deeply affecting Whishaw goes even deeper, suggesting a man irretrievably damaged by his experience of war, and who has painfully and repeatedly learned that the only reason boys don’t grow up is because they die. It’s a beautiful and searching play that will live long in the memory.'

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard ***

Hitchings believes the lush language masks any real dynamism but the performances stood out:

'The leads’ performances are touching. At the outset Dench is upright and stern, but she softens, conveying a delicate sense of wonder and a relish of life’s brief ecstasies. There’s wit here, as well as a generous humanity. Whishaw is a more pensive presence, bearing the tragic weight of having lost his innocence too early. Each has a detailed intensity, and there are some poignant moments between them.'

Libby Purves, The Times (£) *****

Purves opens her review by saying that the story 'breaks your heart open':
'For much of its 90 minutes, Michael Grandage’s latest production had me in a Pool of Tears as bad as Alice’s: the distressful, healing empathy which great theatre produces. It was not even the obvious tragedies that struck to the heart, though the First World War took two of Alice’s sons and Peter’s brother, and his youngest drowned at Oxford. These things are spoken of, but often the trigger for emotion is a throwaway line, a turn of the head, a silent figure at the stage’s edge: Dench glancing down or Whishaw shuddering for a moment at his shadow, the spry cold-hearted fictional child Peter who haunts him.'