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Peanuts, The Last Refuge

Ashleigh Packham

Directed by Adam Reeves
★★★
Pros: A very enjoyable journey following a delightfully quirky character.
Cons: The scatty nature of the protagonist is just as prevalent in the play as a whole.
Our Verdict: Very enjoyable and worth seeing, but it needs a bit more development as it currently leaves the audience somewhat unquenched.

Courtesy of Poleroid Theatre

This is a self-narration detailing the world of Anna. She’s quiet, has some rather odd habits and has a lovely relationship with her older brother that we feel is the result of over-bearing, pushy parents. It is entirely deterministic in its outlook and it points the finger at the parents’ behaviour as causing her disengagement from every activity she’s ever tried, including school work. This creates an interesting tension as an audience member as you question what it takes to form a fully functional adult. Many naive and inaccurate ideas spill out of her mouth in a way that is endearing rather than frustrating, which signifies clever writing talent. We question whether she was born with low wits, is actually smart but totally uninterested in education, or is so dreamy that all experience gained through life leaks away, creating a wonderful childish perception of the world.

The production is set in a fort made of bed sheets, which is ideally suited to the hidden-unpolished-gem feel of The Last Refuge. Peanuts are the coping mechanism of Anna and the colour pallet of the entire show is based around dull and desperate yellows. There aren’t scene changes as such, but there are chapters which are spliced together with very two wonderful-to-watch musicians instead of uncreative blackouts. Their demeanour compliments the aesthetic and tone of the play perfectly and I really hope they are a collaboration in their own right as the songs are fantastic – I’m still humming one of them, which annoyingly I can’t find on YouTube.

I have mixed feelings about the offering as a whole. The writing itself is very clever as it has a naturalistic way of sequencing events more emotionally rather than chronologically, and this accurately represents scatty human thought. Is it thought though? Very cleverly the character depicts herself through the eyes of others as disengaged, quiet, utterly odd and dreamy – but the narrator that we see is glorious in her quirks, logical in her actions and defiant in her sense of self. The result is that the contrast between her internal and external personas is somewhat unconvincing.

This brings me to what the play is doing as a whole. The strapline for the show says that it is ‘a story of a girl who wants to be everything and everyone – but she isn’t. So, what does she do now?’. There is no real sense of ‘now’; the play is actually about her childhood and the kind of person it has made her. It is not about the future in any real way and it isn’t really about wanting to be ‘everything and everyone’. There is a very sad feeling to the play about how, due to her stifling upbringing, she doesn’t feel a sense of self-worth or achievement and is therefore unable to follow a dream – but no action is situated in any specific age or location. This makes the play feel somewhat wrongly packaged.

At the metaphysical curtain down, I really wanted to come back for the second half as I thought a really interesting character had been created. This would have given fabulous dramatic licence for her to get into all sorts of strange events in the subsequent years of her life, but this never fully unfurls. This is a shame. It is charming and enjoyable production and I would love to see what happens to this character – but the complex world has just ended up as litter in the way it has been discarded by the playwright (or director).

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Peanuts runs at The Last Refuge until 31 March 2013.
Box Office: 020 8127 6671 or book online at

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