Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Simon Read, based on the novel by Lewis Carroll, songs and music by Martin Ward
The young audience with whom I saw Polka’s version of Lewis Carroll’s story seemed to immediately identify with Ebony Feare’s sulkily rebellious Alice, getting things off to a flying start.
No sooner did she have them on her side than Dale Superville’s always-late White Rabbit with his twitching nose, ears growing out of his top hat and waistcoat on back-to-front was producing a swing from nowhere on which she was going down his rabbit hole.
This lively adaptation, which packs in lots of the highlights without trying to cram in the whole book, is fuelled by songs and little dances. Rosamunde Hutt’s production is colourfully staged with stimulating amusement and imagination from the ways in which things change size to that enigmatic Cheshire Cat grin.
Ti Green’s setting places the action in an attic playroom where anything can happen, using projected images to speed the helter-skelter tumble underground, the filling up of Alice’s pool of tears, and using some stylized action form the actors to aid the changing size of things.
Katie Lias’s amusing costumes are delightful and help the actors create a multiplicity of roles with rapid changes, though being the same performer seems to add to the fun and make the whole show a game—and that all helps to furnish Carroll’s fantastic craziness with an apparent if non-existent logic.
There is a lovely Dormouse from Nina Davies, as well as a bad-tempered Duchess; Robert Saunders is a furious Cook belabouring about, as well as time-trapped Mad Hatter; Géhane Strehler a squealing, scratching, furry cat as well as that “Of-with-his-head” Queen of Hearts and Sam Worboys King of Hearts and the March Hare with his best butter.
They all have other roles as well while Dale Superville is a hookah-smoking caterpillar and a particularly delightful, sadly sobbing Mock Turtle as well as continually popping up as the White Rabbit.
A little of the action is brought out into the auditorium, which the youngsters clearly love, but they are engaged throughout. A running time of two hours, even with an interval, may seem a little long for the younger of the 6- to 11-year-olds for which the show is designed, but the audience I saw it with were totally wrapped up in it.
Though I love Carroll’s nonsense verse, Alice was never a favourite book when I was little but this high-spirit version is full of fun. I loved it.
Reviewer: Howard Loxton