Peter and the Wolf, Hackney Empire, London
The return of a rare treat
Sunday 09 April 2006
If there's a touch of patronage about Lori Spee's Act One text it's not the fault of actor Peter Wickham, an urbane presence on stage throughout who nobly resists the urge to do Johnny Morris cat and duck voices. That's the job of the Philharmonia's instrumental soloists, on sparkling form under the baton of Mark Stephenson.
Composer Erik Van der Wurff's new section of score is usefully atmospheric, but pales next to Prokofiev's with its clear melodies and vivid colours. Act One is set in a schoolroom, where each of the pupils carries traits of the animal they will play in Act Two. Zoe is flighty and twittery while Missy is sleepy and slinky, and Lucas a hip-hopping bully. A boy called Jack, confusingly, turns into Peter. What's the problem with calling him Peter from the start?
It's no surprise that it's Prokofiev that inspires Elkins' best work: gymnastic ballet solos for the bird, seriously menacing kung-fu kicks for the wolf, and hilarious breakdance moves for the poor old duck, whose sticky end inside the wolf is suggested in a startling tumbling duet that appears to fuse two stomachs into one.
Hackney Empire, London E8 (020 8985 2424) to 16 April
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