by Sarah Cope

Peppa Pig is a hugely popular Channel 5 cartoon, and the character is so marketable that she now
has a whole world dedicated to her in Hampshire. My four-year-old daughter entered a competition to win tickets to this pig-themed world though fortunately she didn’t win. However, instead we thought we’d catch the infamous pig’s stage show instead, which handily didn’t involve leaving London.

Although enchanting to children, it is hard to see what exactly is the appeal of Peppa Pig. The stories are largely uneventful, and Peppa Pig and her family have a uniquely annoying habit of chuckling,very regularly, for absolutely no reason. Watch an episode of the programme and you’ll see what I mean… or perhaps simply take my word for it.

The cartoon, however, transfers well on to the stage, with puppeteers in black clothing working small but adequately visible puppets of all the main characters. The plot revolves around a hunt for hidden treasure and includes a handy map-reading lesson along the way. Plenty of catchy songs and audience participation meant that most of the children present remained engaged, although the interval did disrupt concentration and I noticed it took some of the kids a while to re-focus when the second half commenced.

One very positive element of Peppa Pig is that, unlike many kids’ TV programme, it does go some way to challenge gender stereotypes. Step in the workaholic Miss Rabbit, who not only drives the bus, but also drives a train, flies a hot air balloon and sails a boat. When Peppa marvels at this character’s immense versatility, Miss Rabbit merely states, “I do have more than one job you know, Peppa!”

There are some great visual effects along the way; George’s squirting tears – which must have soaked the front row! – and the luminous underwater scene stand out particularly. One major complaint however is how loud the production was. It was almost ear-splittingly so at some points, and it is difficult to know why. If the production company thought this was the only way to guarantee that the children would keep paying attention, they were wrong.

Indeed, it made being in the audience somewhat torturous at times, and, without wanting to sound like the archetypal ‘helicopter parent’, children do have sensitive and therefore easily damageable ears. Whether this was a quirk of this particular venue or whether the show is always this loud is unclear, although if the latter is the case, I suggest they turn it down a notch. No need to shout: just oink.

Post-script: for further evidence of Peppa Pig’s wide appeal, see this short and rather amusing You Tube video from 2010, where Ed Balls deems her “a global media star acclaimed around the world” and boasts of visiting a SureStart Children’s
Centre alongside the affable creature.

Peppa Pig’s tour continues; tickets available online.