The garden of St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden (popularly known as the “Actors Church”) is a perfect place to stage an outdoor theatre production.
Opening the Iris Theatre’s summer season is Evangeline Dickson’s Dear Peter, now expanded and developed from its previous versions at Theatre N16 and the Maiden Speech festival.
Ash is twenty-five, it is her birthday, and her favourite book is still Peter Pan. The boy who can fly, and never grew up, fixes himself in her mind at seven, and it is this boy who she addresses at key points in life as she looks back.
Performing on and around a tree stump, Dickson jumps, runs, lies down and engages her audience as Ash moves through life. It is a lively and physically arduous performance which showed no sign of slowing even when the heavens opened.
A convincing little girl in awe of her brother Ben, a teen figuring out her friend Penny, a mud-bathing festival dweller, she always returns back to “Dear” Peter. With director Kayla Feldman, this piece now blossoms in an outdoors much changed in our “New Normal”.
This is a piece which pulls in the audience, and even with the perils of the outdoor setting (a scene-stealing wood pigeon, torrential rain by the end, sodden props), Dickson’s professionalism and tenacity comes across.
With musical interludes during which Dickson sings along and dances, poetic sections of language, and a dry wit, Dear Peter focuses a close eye on moments we all took for granted – first day at school, packed audiences – as well as harsher experiences of love and loss.
Both Ash and her creator are intent on bringing the magic of theatre back, and as this was my first show since lockdown, I was glad to be there to see how Dear Peter has expanded. It is a show which has further potential for growth, and it catches perfectly the childhood reliance on fictional escape to make sense of life.
Social distancing is observed, temperature checks are taken on arrival, and the wearing of masks is encouraged. Seating is wooden benches seating two people, at £25.