by Kate Kerrow.
The Gardens St Hugh’s College St Margaret’s Road OX2 6LE To 13 September 2015.
10am 7, 8, 11 Sep.
12pm 13 Sep.
2.30pm 29 Aug-1 Sep, 5, 12 Sep.
5pm 29 Aug-1 Sep, 5, 6, 12 Sep.
7pm 3, 4, 7, 8, 11 Sep.
Runs 1hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 01865 766266.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 August.
A purposful Alice in grounds that might have been made for it.
There’s tremendous theatrical potential in the stories Lewis Carroll invented for young Alice Liddell. The problem in staging them is to provide a dramatic pulse for individual situations. The first Alice could enjoy imagining herself amid a strange, strangely logical world. Kate Kerrow’s adaptation widens interest by showing Alice’s gradual self-realisation.
At first she’s a truculent girl, with a modern backpack yet Victorian-seeming in her blue dress, with a Peter Pan-like reluctance to grow-up. Following the White Rabbit from the stately brick and open lawn of St Hugh’s College into the wooded enclave of Wonderland, Alice starts asserting her identity. Necessarily, for she no longer has Guardians overlooking her.
The selection of stories move Alice from passive – shrinking, growing, gaining a neck of giraffic proportions (a neat trick involving a conveniently placed tree with forked branches) – to Alice the adventurer. With wooden sword she quests for the ‘beast of Oxford’, used as a Guardians’ threat to quieten her, transformed into the fearsome roar of Jabberwocky.
Kerrow associates this monster with the tart-loving Queen of Hearts, whose love of decapitations conveniently creates food for tossing to the unseen creature. The inserted musical attack on the monster led by Alice is a stage in her growth enabling her, in another part of Wonderland, to join the Hatter’s tea-party uninvited and argue there about time.
Which is no incidental matter; part of Alice’s self-realisation is an acceptance of time and change. It prepares her for the ultimate show-down with the Queen, Emma Fenney’s slim figure in violent red accentuating the Queen’s height (a long dress covering her and the stepladder she’s mounted), with her opponent in sweet Alice-blue.
Many incidents and characters have to be jettisoned to create the play’s overall path and audience participation in the croquet pay-off breaks the momentum. Rachel-Mae Brady could benefit from amplification in her songs, though in speech her Alice combines resilience in early scenes with reasoned assertion later.
Helen Tennison’s well-arranged production contrives wonderland well in St Hugh’s varied grounds, while there are lively performances from James Burton and the gymnastically inventive Luke Chadwick-Jones.
Alice: Rachel-Mae Brady.
Guardian/Tweedle Dee/Pigeon/Cheshire Cat/Frog/Hatter/Knight: James Burton.
Guardian/Rabbit/Tweedle Dum/Dormouse/Cheshire Cat: Luke Chadwick-Jones.
Guardian/Lorina/Caterpillar/Queen of Hearts/Hare/Cheshire Cat: Emma Fenney.
Director: Helen Tennison.
Designer: Ryan Dawson Laight.
Lighting: Ashley Bale.
Sound: Matt Eaton.
Composer/Musical Director: Ben Davies.
Puppet directors: Robin Gulver, Mikey Brett.
Associate lighting: John Welton.