New Vic (Studio) Etruria Road ST5 0JG To 24 December 2011.
Runs 40min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 December.

Experience, participation and performance mix to ensure the very young have their own Alice.
While older brothers, sisters and friends are seeing the full, Dickensian Alice in Wonderland in the New Vic’s auditorium, the very young can take this Tale Trail to their own Wonderland experience. This, the third such show in the theatre’s studio, follows similar trails to Narnia and Neverland alongside guess which Christmas shows over the past two years.

It’s a project originating in the theatre’s literacy work, though if anything’s to be questioned it’s the title “Tale Trail”. The piece introduces the world of Lewis Carroll (more directly perhaps than Theresa Heskins’ full version, origin of the script here). But it’s as much exploration of an environment as a consecutive story.

Young audience members gather in a darkish ante-chamber carved from the studio space. Here, Jill Rezzano’s hurrying, harried white Rabbit arrives, gains their confidence then guides them through a door into the bright white and colourful garden of Wonderland, to meet Luke Walker in the guise of a talking Flower, a Mad Hatter and the nefarious Knave of Hearts.

The Queen’s tarts have gone missing, and they’re not to be found at the Mad Hatter’s tea-party. Instead, the strutting, commanding Knave appears suddenly nervous at the subject before a series of burps gives him away.

Rezzano’s Rabbit is the children’s constant friend and encourager in the face of Walker’s characters with their more stand-offish approach, similar to so many of Lewis Carroll’s characters to Alice. She encourages them to devise searching questions of characters, though Walker can do his share of encouraging participation, including a name for the Jubb-Jubb birds (“Erm” was the hesitant outcome at this performance).

There’s movement too, and some chance to interact with the environment; such as pulling strings to make model birds’ wings flutter – also a practical device for early arrivers to fill time as the rest pass through the little door. The logical conundrum of signs pointing contradictory ways is faced, there’s a teapot-dance to join in, while the general circulation of the space gives a sense of progress.

Mixing experience, participation and performance this is a fine, small-scale ‘nursery Alice’ for 3-5s.

White Rabbit: Jill Rezzano.
Flower/Mad Hatter/Knave of Hearts: Luke Walker.

Director: Sarah Richardson.
Designers: Laura Clarkson, Lis Evans.
Lighting: Daniella Beattie.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Composer/Musical Director: James Atherton.

2012-01-04 00:35:48

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