Review: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

By Juliette Willis

Presented by Woodplayers Theatre Company, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a technically mesmerising yet disturbing twist on Carroll’s famous book which made use of the professional facilities available in the Mark Hillery Theatre and left everyone questioning whether ‘we’re [really] all mad here’.

Directors and promised ‘an immersive night of aesthetic wonder and joy’ as the audience were seated at tables of eight, charmingly decorated with playing cards, pages from Caroll’s book and fortune tellers. However, it is important to note that the chairs facing away from the stage would have been unable to see any of the action without having to crane their necks as the ‘immersive’ aspect of the production was limited. Actors would only explore the audience areas a handful of times and when they did so they were not lit and barely visible.

The tech crew followed an extortionate number of cues, making excellent use of gobos and projectors available

The crowning achievements of the production are and Rory Collins’ exceptional lighting and sound design as they transformed the minimalist set into an eruption of vivid colours and sounds. The tech crew followed an extortionate number of cues, making excellent use of gobos and projectors available. However, I did feel that the projectors could have been used even more to decorate the black backdrop which seemed quite plain at times.

This being said, the fact that the production company was 80% freshers is a massive achievement for Woodplayers as they managed to pull off a slick and imaginative show. Oggy Grieves’ depiction of the Mad Hatter, stood out through his playfully unhinged performance of this famous role. Grieves displayed a vast amount of talent through his varied vocal range and physical characterisation of the Mad Hatter, covering the stage with his unyielding energy and deploying sharp comedic timing.

Megan Shorey’s performance as Alice must also be commended as she successfully captured the protagonist’s naivety balanced with a mischievous glint in her eye. At times, Shorey’s projection was weak as lines were lost and she could make use of pauses in the script to achieve a more varied and nuanced performance, but she did very well to animate this difficult role with many lines.

Further mentions must go to Maria Eleni Loizidou, the Queen of Hearts, who has a brilliant stage presence and magnetism, making it impossible to tear your eyes away from her. Her authority and deranged charisma commanded the stage through her dramatic facial expressions. Similarly, her husband (Daniel Benton) had an exceptional naturalism on stage during the trial scene and I couldn’t help but wish he had a larger role throughout. Other notable remarks must go to Gia Sanderson (Mock Turtle/Dodo) and Hannah Thomas (White Rabbit) who both gave brilliant performances, embodying their characters excellently and maintaining energy throughout.

Megan Shorey’s performance as Alice must also be commended as she successfully captured the protagonist’s naivety balanced with a mischievous glint in her eye

The costumes and props seemed slightly last minute as hockey sticks were used for croquet sticks and the Knave of Hearts even had to mime using one. It would have been better if he simply observed rather than pretended as it just drew attention to its absence. The Duchess’ plastic baby perhaps would have also been more effective as a bundle of sheets rather than a vandalised child’s toy with a moustache. Perhaps with a little more time these minor issues would have been resolved and made the performance more convincing as a whole.

However, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is a super evening of ‘aesthetic wonder and joy’ as the audience entered the absurd dreamworld of Alice’s imagination. A perfect ensemble play for Collingwood’s first years, Holloway and Gonzalez Pacios should be very proud of their achievements.

Image credit: The Woodplayers

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