Shockheaded Peter

A 'junk-opera' inspired by Heinrich Hoffmann's The Struwwelpeter, with lyrics adapted by Martyn Jacques, music by The Tiger Lillies, and devised by Julian Bleach, Anthony Cairns, Graeme Gilmour, Tamzin Griffin, and Jo Pocock.

Shockheaded Peter is based on a sequence of unpleasant poems by Heinrich Hoffmann, written in Germany in 1844 as The Struwwelpeter. You might remember the boy that never cuts his hair or trims his nails or the red-legged scissorman waiting in the wardrobe for thumbsuckers.

These poems have now been turned into songs and staged as a gory junk opera in which Hoffman's characters are re-cast as the dysfunctional offspring of a mutant fin-de-siecle society - a 19th Century pop video set in a Victorian advent calendar with cheap illustions, dusty props, shadowy figures, staged with low tech, hand made precision.

1998/1999: Original London Production at the Lyric Hammersmith

2001: Original West End Production at the Piccadilly Theatre

2002: 1st West End Revival at the Albery Theatre

2004: London Revival at the Lyric Hammersmith


1998/1999: Original London Production at the Lyric Hammersmith

Previewed 22 April 1998, Opened 23 April 1998, Closed 9 May 1998 at the Lyric Hammersmith
Previewed 17 February 1999, Opened 22 February 1999, Closed 10 April 1999 at the Lyric Hammersmith
Returned 22 June 1999, Closed 10 July 1999 at the Lyric Hammersmith

The cast featured Julian Bleach, Anthony Cairns, Graeme Gilmour, Tamzin Griffin, and Jo Pocock, with music performed by The Tiger Lillies: Adrian Hughes, Martyn Jacques, and Adrian Stout.

Directed by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, with sets by Julian Crouch and Graeme Gilmour, costumes by Kevin Pollard, lighting by Jon Linstrum, and sound by Mic Pool and Andy Brooks.

This production was originally seen at the West Yorkshire Playhouse's Courtyard Theatre - previewed from 27 March 1998, opened on 31 March 1998, and closed on 18 April 1998 - with the same cast.


2001: Original West End Production at the Piccadilly Theatre

Previewed 14 February 2001, Opened 19 February 2001, Closed 28 April 2001 at the Piccadilly Theatre

The 'junk opera' Shockheaded Peter in London with Martyn Jacques an The Tiger Lillies

The cast featured Julian Bleach, Anthony Cairns, Tamzin Griffin, Ewan Hunter, and Rebekah Wild, with music performed by The Tiger Lillies: Adrian Hughes, Martyn Jacques and Adrian Stout.

Directed by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, with sets by Julian Crouch and Graeme Gilmour, costumes by Kevin Pollard, lighting by Dexter Tulett from the original by Jon Linstrum, and sound by Mic Pool, Andy Brooks, and Roland Higham.

"Riotously original and funny, Shockheaded Peter is a delightful musical elegy for dead children inspired by the mid-19th century Struwwelpeter stories of Heinrich Hoffmann... these, like the Grimm stories, recount vivid nightmares of children who behaved badly and paid the price... These fates are casually recounted on a brightly lit toy theatre stage of slamming doors and scary puppets compered by a slinky bogeyman (Julian Bleach), and a trio of spooky musicians. The company is led by Martyn Jacques, a leering falsetto with an accordion. And the tales are recounted as moralising lessons with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon. Straw-headed Peter is punished only for being born with talon-like fingers, horrid hair and a ghastly paunch. He is buried under the floorboards. The show is his triumphal emergence and revenge, in giant puppet form." The Daily Mail

"If you are silly enough to miss this show, you probably belong in it. Shockheaded Peter, inspired by the cautionary tales of Heinrich Hoffmann in The Struwwelpeter, is about all the stupid ways in which children can and do ignore the advice of their elders and betters. It is part travelling freak show, part amateur dramatics, part, well, this is where theatre leaves the fourth wall far behind and begins to exist in its own lusciously imagined world... The plot is cemented into delectable shape by the Tiger Lillies' magnificent songs... Regardless of their gruesome subject matter, these are some of the wittiest, gutsiest lyrics I have heard since the heyday of Porter and Berlin... This is one of the funniest shows I've ever seen." The Independent

Shockheaded Peter in London at the Piccadilly Theatre previewed from 14 February 2001, opened on 19 February 2001, and closed on 28 April 2001


2002: 1st West End Revival at the Albery Theatre

Previewed 4 April 2002, Opened 11 April 2002, Closed 15 June 2002 at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre)

The return of Shockheaded Peter in London with David Thomas and Two Pale Boys

David Thomas and Two Pale Boys bring their own extraordinary interpretation to this award-winning show.

The cast featured Julian Bleach, Anthony Cairns, Tamzin Griffin, Ewan Hunter, and Rebekah Wild, with music performed by David Thomas and Two Pale Boys.

Directed by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, with sets by Julian Crouch and Graeme Gilmour, costumes by Kevin Pollard, lighting by Dexter Tulett from the original by Jon Linstrum, and sound by Mic Pool, Andy Brooks, and Roland Higham.

"Once again, one marvels at the ingenuity with which the company have brought Hoffmann's vision to theatrical life while taking an intelligent liberty with the title tale... The loss of its original wandering minstrels - Martin Jacques and the Tiger Lillies - isn't quite compensated for by the replacement act: David Thomas and two pale boys. Jacques' lyrics remain intact and hilarious, while the new musical arrangements filter trumpet, accordion and guitar sounds into a ghostly fairground accompaniment that is oddly compulsive. Lacking Jacques' electrifying falsetto, however, Thomas cuts a curiously inert figure, his frail, wailing voice so faraway-sounding as to be indistinct at times. But when you're faced with a show this good, you can afford to quibble." The Daily Telegraph

"This nail-bitingly and hair-raisingly entertaining show is called a punk opera, which gives a clue to its general demeanour. It takes chutzpah and a superb sense of theatricality to mock the theatre, and at the same time pay cheeky homage to its subversive magic. Imagine an early-19th-century toy playhouse with fantasy figures dreamt up by a Victorian David Lynch... A brilliantly funny evening." The Sunday Times

Shockheaded Peter in London at the Albery Theatre previewed from 4 April 2002, opened on 11 April 2002, and closed on 15 June 2002


2004: London Revival at the Lyric Hammersmith

Opened 8 April 2004, Closed 24 April 2004 at the Lyric Hammersmith

The cast featured Julian Bleach, Anthony Cairns, Graeme Gilmour, Tamzin Griffin, and Jo Pocock, with music performed by The Tiger Lillies: Adrian Hughes, Martyn Jacques, and Adrian Stout.

Directed by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, with sets by Julian Crouch and Graeme Gilmour, costumes by Kevin Pollard, lighting by Jon Linstrum, and sound by Mic Pool and Roland Higham.