by Simon Reade based on the novel by Lewis Carroll songs and music by Martin Ward.

Polka Theatre, 240 The Broadway, Wimbledon, SW19 1SB To 15 February 2014.
Runs 1hr 45min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 8543 4888.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 January.

Plays a strong hand.
Why adapt Lewis Carroll’s Alice? Because it’s there. It’s a well-known title. It offers multiple possibilities for theatrical visuals. It matches the traditional appeal of Victorian comfort with the exploration of fantasy and the traditional storyline of a hero(ine) facing dangers on a quest. It has any number of fascinating and original lines. In other words, why not?

The problem lies in matching the economy of Carroll’s wit rather than smothering it in detail or slowing it with the practicalities of staging, while providing a consistency which holds everything together over a couple of hours.

Using tried ideas but without resorting to copying, adapter Simon Reade and director Rosamunde Hutt have done all that in this lively, thoughtful version for 6+. They haven’t tried to shove too much in, they haven’t slowed the story to indulge individual incidents. And they have used a framing device which ties things together and shows why telling stories to children forms an important part of their development.

Alice’s older sister is trying out tunes in the room at the top of the house to which parents gladly allocate potentially noisy offspring. She’s annoyed by Alice, who’s established her own play-area in a tepee. When sister still tells her off for being disruptive, upset Alice is hit by an idea – represented on stage by the White Rabbit which leads her to adventures where she learns to speak up for herself and discover how resourceful she can be.

Does she physically leave the playroom, or is it her mind alone that’s elsewhere? It scarcely matters as scenes proceed with a sense of continuous motion which has both dreamlike fluidity and the directness of reality.

And vivid energy, as with Géhane Strehler who doubles the frustrated older sister with the commanding Red Queen, amid ceremonial in the garden trial, closing-down Sam Worboys’ attempts as her consort to be pleasantly reasonable. Or Dale Superville whose energy as a performer is beautifully contained in the scholarly-looking, deliberative Mock Turtle.

Work this good earns its right to adopt another classic as it ends with Ebony Feare’s adult Alice, Wendy Darling like, sensing rather than seeing the Rabbit as it summons her daughter.

Mother/Mouse/Duchess/Dormouse/Card Five: Nia Davies.
Alice: Ebony Feare.
Dodo/Cook/Mad Hatter/Gryphon: Robert Saunders.
Sister/Duck/Cheshire Cat/Queen of Hearts/Child: Géhane Strehler.
White Rabbit/Eagle/Caterpillar/Card Two/Mock Turtle: Dale Superville.
Parrot/March Hare/King of Hearts/Dad: Sam Worboys.

Director: Rosamunde Hutt.
Designer: Ti Green.
Lighting/Audio Visual: Arnim Friess.
Movement: Lawrence Evans.
Costume: Katie Lias.
Aerial Consultant: Layla Rosa.

2014-01-09 10:54:24

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