by Theresa Heskins adapted from Lewis Carroll.

New Vic Theatre Etruria Road ST5 0JG To 21 January 2012.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.

TICKETS: 01782 717962.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 December.

Lively and imaginative – a wonderful Wonderland.
Theresa Heskins takes Alice and her world from prosperous academic Oxford to the Victorian working world of the Potteries in her new adaptation for Newcastle-under-Lyme’s New Vic. Laura Clarkson’s design makes this clear in the industrial kilns drawn around the auditorium and the old barge on which Alice and family chug to their picnic.

So does Heskins’ script for her own production, with next-to-nothing in the pot to eat, and Alice sent into town to raise funds for food by her three-card trick. Her stall (a wooden box) causes a watch-bearing gentleman to stumble on his way to the theatre – Clarkson’s designs also illustrate theatrical details, while Wonderland and Alice’s find-the-lady card ploy eventually merge in an ingenious vanishing routine.

Her production originated when Heskins saw a picture of Lewis Carroll’s Alice Liddell dressed as a beggar-girl. The rags-and-tatters contrasted the everyday smartness of other photos, as the pauper’s clothes were offset by her well-nourished hair and confident expression. What, though, if the Wonderland experience made an always-poor Alice find internal resources to deal with a series of challenges?

So, with South changed for North, this Alice lives in the hard times of Dickens’ Coketown, finding release in moving from a world governed by Gradgrinds and Bounderbys into the strange but liberating atmosphere of Sissy Jupe and something like the circus.

Seen through to the end, the adaptation gains by giving Alice a family and a final reuniting. Along the way it doesn’t cheat on the strange events, with some of the more spectacular beasts descendents of Heskins’ previous New Vic adaptations, particularly last year’s Peter Pan. There’s a large, luxurious Cheshire Cat, popping-up all around in furry fragments, then disappearing section-by-section, while the flame-eyed Jabberwock is wheeled around the stage twice, first as a spectacular act one end, then justifying itself dramatically at its second act reappearance.

With fun at the famous tea-party and an able, hard-working cast around Hannah Edwards’ sensible, resourceful Alice, this is an imaginative recreation, commenting on yet catching the spirit of the original, in what’s becoming a distinctive series of New Vic Christmas shows.

Red Queen: Devon Black.
Tweedledee: Michael Brett.
Violet: Jill Cardo.
Cheshire Cat: Lesley Cook.
Alice: Hannah Edwards.
Mad Hatter: Michael Hugo.
Tweedledum: Antony Jardine.
White Queen: Charlotte Palmer.
White Rabbit: Jonathan Race.
March Hare: Simon Spencer-Hyde.
Dormouse: Paschale Straiton.
Bishop: Ali Watt.
Young Company: Kristian Morgan, Maya Tudor, Emilia Braddon, Maddison Smith, Lauren Tagg, Sophie Howell, Sophia Bond or Ella Zaveckas/Jacob French, Natasha Prince, Hannah White, Elizabeth Stromek, Emily Ashmore, Lauren Greaves, Lotti Anderson or Isobel Thorley/Maxwell Jeffries, Emily Ford, Grace Clarke, Georgia Phillips, Daniella Whelan, Katya Fowler, Holly Lacey or Megan Swancott.

Director: Theresa Heskins.
Designer: Laura Clarkson.
Lighting: Daniella Beattie.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Composer/Musical Director: James Atherton.
Choreographer: Beverley Edmunds.
Costume: Lis Evans,
Illusions: Darren Lang.
Assistant director: Paschale Straiton.
Assistant choreographer: Zoe Cozens.

2011-12-30 14:15:15

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