Following the classic Lewis Carroll story of a girl who falls down a rabbit hole to a magical realm, Jocelyn Clarke’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland is remarkably faithful to its source material. This production manages to evoke the same feelings that the original book does through some well-made decisions.
One of the most striking aspects of this production is the fact that it features two Alices – a younger one (Miriam Needham) who is experiencing the story, and an older Alice (Hilary Brown-Walsh) who narrates her past experience. As the story progresses, Brown-Walsh’s Alice becomes increasingly involved. She takes on roles within the story and eventually also swaps off and on with Needham’s younger Alice. In this way, even audience members who are very familiar with the tale could experience the unconventional ‘madness’ of the story as if it were the first time.
The use of props throughout the piece was both funny and creative. During the scene when Alice rapidly grows and shrinks, the different-sized tables was as comical as it was clever. The Mad Hatter’s tea party featured another of my favorite props: a long table that was missing its legs. The tea party guests held the table up themselves, and often moved it around. This helped to give the party a feeling of chaos and rush. I really enjoyed how dynamic the use of props made the piece feel.
This production featured some lovely music and excellent sound effects. I enjoyed both throughout. In particular, I was pleasantly surprised by the subtlety of the soundscape. Since Alice in Wonderland focuses so heavily on the idea of ‘madness’ and of a world turned upside down, the subtle enhancements added by the sound made for some excellent contrast.
One area I felt could use some improvement was the costumes. While I liked the ones that were used, it seemed to me that they did not quite match the level of ‘weird’ sufficiently. None of the animals had anything in their costumes to visually allude to their species, for example. I do appreciate how this production steered away from the Disney interpretation of the tale, but I found myself wishing the White Rabbit had a pair of ears or something of the sort. Aside from contributing to the already excellent humour in the production, I think this would have helped to distinguish the characters from each other a little more.
However, this was a small area that could have used improvement. All in all, the play was very enjoyable. I greatly enjoyed how several quotes from the original book were placed into the script – this is rarely done in adaptations of the story. The actors handled their parts with great skill.