alice and white rabbit

Abby Wain as Alice with Jack Quarton as The White Rabbit. Pictures: Robert Day

Alice in Wonderland

Derby Theatre

****

WITH Christmas now knocking loudly on the stage door it’s time for Midlands’s theatres across the region to serve up their seasonal offering.

With some venues opting for the usual pantomime it always seems that anyone who chooses Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, has a tougher job of sprinkling any seasonal cheer into this classic tale of dreams and fantasy.

It’s a tough plot to adapt in that you can’t really tamper with the story or characters in any diverse way or shoe horn in any additional humour that creates any sense of Christmas in the proceedings.

This then is the dilemma that any company that takes it on faces/ and the most writer Mike Kenny does here is adapt the story with a modern day twist.

In this version before Alice sets off down the rabbit hole, we face what seems like an overlong introduction to the fact she is waking up on a day where she faces a school examination. The point that it is the most important day of her life and how the exam will change her life forever is made over and over again in the first 15 minutes.

It’s a bit of a stern opening for us and her as poor Alice faces her exam fears; she is then bullied before being regimentally marched off to the examination room. It’s enough to leave any young person with real fears for their own academic future.

Thankfully when the lecture on good grades gives way, we finally sink back into the fantasy world that is classic Alice. Director Sarah Brigham utilises a clever revolving set designed by Neil Irish that smartly turns to change the setting quickly. With a mostly electronic synth based soundtrack, the production features some amusing and at times irritating songs by Ivan Stott and with his additional adventurous sound work the production has a full sense of surround sound.

 Abby Wain plays Alice and practically holds the entire proceedings together as her journey takes place. Beginning her descent with some skills on the high-rise silks, she drops in and narrates, acts dances and sings confidently through the entire show.

On her way she meets the characters we have all come to know and love. The White Rabbit played by Jack Quarton, Dominic Rye is the Mad Hatter decked out in his tartan outfit and even playing the bagpipes at one point. There’s Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee played John Holt Roberts and Paula James colourful as a pair of Mohican punk rockers, and of course the Queen of Hearts played by Joanna Brown in a costume that seems to have taken its inspiration from one of Madonna’s old outfits. Elizabeth Eves plays the Duchess and almost steals the show with her great performance and singing whilst Keshini Misha takes on the caterpillar to cat morph and Helen Rimmer keeps nodding off as the Dormouse.

Special mention must be made to the younger cast members who all performed really well adding the `aah factor ‘to the show especially when Alice shrinks.

The talented cast add to the music by all playing their own instruments which adds to the fact that this version of Alice is more musical theatre than mad hatter madness. Set against the blackboard jungle set there are some colourful set changes but nothing with any degree of a wow factor or seasonal wonderment.

Overall this is a well crafted, well played show for all ages and if you like your Christmas entertainment without a Panto dame, the usual run of innuendos, political and social gags that is often `full on‘ pantomime, then this entertaining production is the one for you. To 07-01-16

Jeff Grant

06-12-16 

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