“The audience were seated at individual tables decorated with red splattered origami roses and playing cards, with the Mad Hatter’s table submerged within…”
‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ is a beautifully whimsical production that perfectly emulates the nonsensical fantasy of the much beloved story.
Horatio Holloway and Guillem Gonzalez Pacios direct a dream-like performance. Its light hearted approach acts as a much needed relief from the “darker than dark” themes often explored in DST. The audience were seated at individual tables decorated with red splattered origami roses and playing cards, with the Mad Hatter’s table submerged within. This helped create an immersive performance, embedding the audience into the stage and, in turn, allowing them to escape the heavy monotony of everyday life. The play was politely interactive: the audience were addressed, gifted pig-like babies; the Mad Hatter scene especially helped to de-establish the lines between audience and theatre.
Megan Shorey’s Alice was delightful. Perpetually perplexed and just a tad pouty, her attempts to lead the play into reason are laughably hopeless. Her petulant insistence of establishing logic paints her as a decidedly strong-headed protagonist, with Shorey’s unshakeably wilful depiction really enforcing this tenacity. Occasionally stompy, Shorey’s child-like vexation is refreshingly rational amidst the absurdity, though her bewildered commandment of the other characters suggests she far more belongs in Wonderland, where timetables and capital cities are inconsequential, than in reality.
Our auditory introduction to the Queen of Hearts (disarming offstage screeching), pre-empts her unfalteringly comedic aggression, which Maria Eleni Loizidou keeps up with ease. Her erratic soprano squawks added an element of jovial peril, that while too extreme to be threatening is nonetheless unsettling. Loizidou’s impressive vocal range paints the Queen’s impatience in an almost diva-esque derangement, and her infantilising stroppiness could perhaps be taken further to really emphasise her explosive changeability. The entire production seems set out to unbalance and destabilise the audience’s composition, if not through Loizidou’s demented menace, then at least through the general volatile madness. I found the March Hare (Ifeanyi Felukwu) particularly impressive in his array of lunacy; the ambiguity of his accent, though perhaps not purposeful, really helping to convey his displacement from reality and mental discombobulation. His stuttering neurosis is eloquently portrayed, tracing well the tragic suggestion that the Hare was once sensible, but has now descended into delirium. The only character perhaps played more sympathetically is Daniel Benton’s subordinate king, terrified into submission by his domineering wife. Benton’s trembling depiction reveals a King’s courtly power to be a delusion, and amidst a fading social hierarchy, his unbased confidence towards the end poignantly tips the play into anarchy.
The Mad Hatter’s (Oggy Grieves) moments of false lucidity lure Alice into a society void of reason, one that aptly frustrates her to exhaustion. His slightly camp, slightly manic portrayal is at times genuinely frightening, and his very well-acted hysteria, particularly in ‘court’, is perfectly tempered by an impish playfulness that restores his role’s comedic value.
I thought Steph Roarty’s set was so cleverly designed, with the veiled upper stage seeming almost gothicly ominous. The way the trial scene was set out was an ingenious use of space that really did portray a courthouse. The staging in general was very impressive, but not quite as innovative as Rory Collin’s use of lighting. At the points of Alice’s transitions between worlds it was trippy and almost hallucinogenic. Spotlights and soundscapes beautifully conveyed the more surreal habitats of the set, such as under the ocean, or immersed in a psychedelic forest.
Whilst there were some scenes which could be improved by diversifying movements, or others that struck a little one-note, the overall atmosphere of adventure was palpable. I would perhaps want the audience to be even more engaged, as it seems the moments of interaction weened off towards the end, and there were a few notable errors in dialogue and action that perhaps need polishing. However, overall, it was a fun and dynamic performance which I enjoyed watching immensely.
By Niamh Hoyland
Photo Credits: Collingwood Woodplayers