by Kate Kerrow adapted from Lewis Carroll.
The Mill Arts Centre Spiceball Park OX16 5QE To 2 January 2016.
10am 24 Dec.
2pm 21-24, 26-31 Dec, 2 Jan.
7.30pm 21-23, 26-30 Dec, 2 Jan.
Relaxed Performance 30 Dec 2pm.
TICKETS: 01295 279002/01865 766266.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 December.
An enjoyable winter Wonderland.
Last summer’s Creation Theatre Alice come in from warm August nights to play across Christmas, for 5+, at Banbury’s Mill Arts. It certainly makes economic sense to revive it indoors. And Kate Kerrow’s script has a firm line on Alice in Wonderland, so the indoors, non-promenade staging makes at least as much sense as the original journey round an Oxford College garden.
It can give a more defined focus. When Alice meets her sister (as I assumed, though actually one of her three Guardians) carrying her designer shopping-bags and telling Alice to be more responsible, the argument carried-out in our midst leaves Alice seeming more childishly irresponsible than when the quarrelling couple were in a larger open space.
More than before, the play seems like a counterweight to J M Barrie’s Peter Pan, without the treacly sentiment of Barrie’s story, or its unpleasant humour that can cloy and revolt. Many of the Pan relationships have either a heavy-handed, knowing jocularity or a childish disempowerment.
Carroll, on the other hand, writes with a liberating sense of logic as Alice makes her independent way through Wonderland. It’s something Kerrow’s script emphasises, so that her return is as a more mature person, taking her place in society, not forever hovering outside curtains or grasping at elusive memories.
Theatrically, there are losses, especially in the red Queen’s violent rule of lopped-off heads, and the final croquet-game, where the audience participants have little space. Jabberwocky is also reduced in scope.
Yet there are gains; the sloping table at the Mad Hatter’s tea-party now has Alice more pointedly oppressed than when it seemed naturally askew amid real trees.
So audiences at the indoor version need not worry, They have all the essential material. Ryan Dawson Laight’s new design creates a rough proscenium stage, Alice going behind its curtain as a shadow when she enters her new world, and the boxes forming the columns of the frame comically useful in pursuits and for discovery.
This version suddenly recalls it’s Christmas, stuffing the last part with unnecessary, pantomime-like elements. But the good stuff’s still there to enjoy.
Alice: Rachel-Mae Brady.
Guardian/Tweedle Dee/Pigeon/Cheshire Cat/Frog/Hatter/Knight: James Burton.
Guardian/Rabbit/ Tweedle Dum/Dormouse/Cheshire Cay: 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.
Puppets: Peter Arnold, Robin Gulver, Mikey Brett.