Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

alice st2

Lauren Brine as Alice with some of the weird creatures that inhabit Wonderland



The Crescent Theatre


It has been more than a year since Stage2 took to the Crescent stage with a big show, a time which has seen its founder, Liz Light, step down after 30 years, and former member and latterly company manager, Alex Butler, take over.

And, to be honest, they returned as if they have never been away, with all the Stage2 hallmarks in place – cast of thousands, well, call it 31; well-choreographed and acted crowd scenes; strong leads and not a prompt in sight.

Butler, who joined in 2008  with a break for university in 2011 (degree in applied theatre), not only directs but has written this imaginative reworking of Lewis Carroll’s fantasy tale, starting with Alice becoming an evacuee shipped out to her relatives in the country at the outbreak of World War II.

We open in hospital where Alice's mother is ill, meeting other patients and then to the bustle of a busy station with all the evacuee children – children and characters who will soon have another life . . .

Lauren Brine is simply superb as Alice. It is a huge part, she is on stage for the entire show, and is always living the part with lovely tiny gesture or expressions to bring Alice to life as she listens or watches other characters.

Alice is the normal one in all this, while at the other extreme, mad as a hatter, but more of that later, is the Queen of Hearts played by Roni Mevorach, a Stage2 veteran these days, who brings a confidence and vitality to any role. We first meet her as Alice’s rather posh aunt, who morph’s into the loony Queen, screeching off with their heads at the least little thing. The queen and her whacky world appear after Alice’s . . . accident, we never quite know what happened.

All we do know is that she runs off to help the White Rabbit who has been shot by her if it moves shoot it Uncle, Elijah Dix, who in turn is elevated to the King in Alice’s adventure. Then, after a glimpse into the whacky world of beheadings, tea parties and painted roses, where logic stands on its head, we find Alice slowly coming around in her Aunt’s house after . . . her trip.

alice and aunt

Alice with, behind, Roni Mevorach as her aunt and Elijah Dix as her uncle

And remember Mad Hatters? Well we have the original model in Emily Cremins in what appears to be a US marine helmet rather than the more traditional stove-pipe hat.

She starts life as friendly evacuee Wendy along with her sister Grace, played by Moriah Potter, who becomes The March Hare, creating an amusing and noisy double act who live in permanent tea time after upsetting Time They get on the train with sleepy brother Harry, played by Sebastian Parker-Duber, who snoozes on happily as The Dormouse.

Sanity is in short supply as even Alice’s mother, Edith, quite normal as she lies in her hospital bed, becomes the exuberant but loopy Duchess in the enthusiastic hands of  Eve Hack-Myers,

Even the domestics get in on the act with Amit Mevorach, another familiar face, as Alice’s aunt’s Jack the lad chauffeur Bill, becoming Bill the Lizard, a sort of Jack the . . . well, lizard character, who almost appears normal(ish) in the weird world of Wonderland.

Then there is Brianna Whitty as the larger than life cook at the Aunt’s country pile, who reappears as the cook, full of manic laughter, in the Queen of Hearts' kingdom.

The hospital’s doctor and kindly nurse, Oscar Peters and Eva Williams, take a trip down the evolutionary scale to become The Caterpillar, while Train Conductor Thomas Forrest, worried about the train being late, is still worried about the time as White Rabbit, while Alisha Harris’s Charlie, an evacuee who laughs when nervous, naturally becomes the Cheshire Cat.

Others with dual roles include Carmen Hutchins as a rather unpleasant, bullying evacuee, who finds herself on trial as the Knave of Hearts accused of stealing tarts while Hemal Pallan starts life as a billeting Officer only to end as a frog footman.

Joel Fleming, another long-time member, ages about 70 years or so to play ancient academic Roger and an equally boring mouse, Georgie Nott swaps Mary for the Dodo, Robyn Khasan appears as Harold and the Lory while Ava Forrest is card 5 and the Eagle and Roma Pallen is card 7 and The Duck while Alec Charles-Peers weighs in as a card 2 with Robert Fretwell enthusiastically swinging the axe as the Executioner – with a nine strong ensemble playing everyone and everything else.

There are some clever touches with, for example, the white rabbit shot by Alice’s Uncle played by a puppet while the pink flamingo croquet mallets are also puppets with a hint of Emu with their rather large, and animated beaks..


A bare stage is populated by props such as door frames which retreat at Alice grows and advance as she becomes closer, a simple device to indicate size, while a truck appears from behind the curtained rear stage as first a train carriage and later as the Mad Hatter’s tea party – instant roll on roll off scene changes.

Crowd scenes are again impressive. Stage2 always manage to involve large numbers in productions, but the crowds are well choreographed, everyone knows where to go and if you are on stage you act – all the time – no standing idly around as set dressing waiting for your line or cue to move. Even spear carriers at the back have to look as if their spear is a crucial part of the play.

Even sound is well produced with a screaming horde in Wonderland sounding rather like that noise that assaults the ears if you open the door to a resort swimming pool in school holidays.

A play about Alice was conceived by Stage2 kid’s advisory board last summer and Butler has written it over the past year with the new twist of Alice being an evacuee to lead us into the familiar characters of Carroll’s children’s classic.

It might be the first big show for more than a year but Stage2 has not been dormant in that time, A change in policy in summer last year, driven by students, increased the number of workshops and courses, with more works by students and internal productions with one major production a year.

And it is nice to see that through the change of leader and the new performance policy, standards have remained as high as ever. To 20-07-19

Roger Clarke



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