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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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  • Anonymous

    Did you actually watch this play. Not a great deal of confidence in a reviewer who can’t even remember the name of the only character, Anna not Emily. Also the need for development in a ‘second half’rather misses the fact that Anna kills herself at the end. Perhaps you were just too cold and brain cells were not working sufficiently well. We all thought this piece was wonderfully sensitive and insightful,bringing several of our party to tears.

    • Thanks for highlight the name being wrong – that is a bit embarrassing, although more of a small mistake than a reason to doubt our reviewer!

      In addition, our reviewer did originally reference the fact that the play ends in suicide, but that does not change the fact that she felt that rather than have that ending she would have preferred more development of the character in a second half. This was edited out however, as we considered it to be a spoiler which could wreck people’s enjoyment of the show.

      Glad you enjoyed the show though! As the review makes clear, so did we!

  • Hi Anonymous – thanks for taking the time to comment – we are very keen to open a dialogue about theatre as it is the huge range of opinion which makes theatre such an interesting world.

    I do apologise about getting the name wrong. There was no program and it wasn’t mentioned on the flyer or anywhere on Polroid ‘s or The Last Refuge website – I did check. As there was no dialogue between two characters her name wasn’t mentioned very often.

    I gave this 3 stars, because, if you look on our rating system it connotes ‘good with some weaknesses’. I have written many positive things about the play and its enjoyability as an audience member, as our editor said, I did write more fully on my issues with the narrative arch but it contravened the editorial policy. I am happy to send you the unedited version and discuss it further if you wish.

    Insightful and sensitive are both covered in my review, worded differently, I’m glad that the piece had such an emotional effect on some audience members, it is lovely to hear theatre being so powerful. For me, there were obstacles which although made me enjoy the play and love the character (as written above) prevented the work as a whole from being a fully developed piece.

  • Sarah

    I wasn’t a huge fan of this play; I liked the musical interludes, and I thought the writing did a very skilful job of gradually building up a picture of past events through a seemingly random monologue, but I also found the main character annoying rather than endearing. I felt she was depicted quite inconsistently, too. I think the play’s going to stand or fall on your response to Anna, and I don’t think she’s going to appeal to everyone. I also felt the climax was a cheap shot; it didn’t seem natural end.