Storyhouse: Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

Until August 17

Storeyhouse, Chester

www.storyhouse.com

3*

Everybody loves Alice and enjoys her adventures and here we are, graced with a most inventive adaptation, which turns out to be an exuberant flight of fancy. That, plus all the wordplay, create an remarkable tribute to Lewis Carroll. However, it did seem like a play of two halves, and if the second one was meant to be based on Through The Looking Glass, Jabberwocky was the only thing which rang a bell, and although there was an extremely clever twist at the end of Part 1 which carried over, basically, Part Deux seemed somewhat superfluous. It was all rather confusing, well,for adults anyway.

Right from the start, you can’t help wondering: not one but two Alices, and the action is set in a school, including desks which were an open and shut case where puns are concerned, a very neat touch. All the familiar scenes are there, with a pretty smart take on each; for example, when Alice is as it were cut down to size. And the pièce de resistance, or maybe piece of cake… was the Mad Hattter’s Tea Party.

Given the stage was extremely small, as if it shrinks each year, and had to accommodate the ever excellent musicians plus ‘Wonderland’ in very large letters (serving as seats, walls etc), the cast manages to manoevre around very well, including their forays into the audience. And the costumes were all beautifully designed, with some most inventive, such as the preening Cheshire cat with his encyclopaedic knowledge (Caolan McCarthy), and the absurdly athletic Duchess (Charlotte Gorton).

What is fascinating is seeing actors take on wildly different roles, ranging from the well nigh X rated Opera to an Icon of Childhood Innocence. The villanous Peachum, Daniel Goode, makes a marvellous mouthful of Humpty Dumpty while the White Rabbit and Mad March Hare had Tom Connor’s name all over them, and the usual excellent job he made of them too. Macheath to Mad Hatter was no great stretch for Alex Mugnaioni, adept in both roles, and another lovely touch was the trio of Scouse flowers, almost as dolled up as the day’s racegoers.

One reason for the success of these productions must be the atmosphere – all one big, happy family (apart from one little girl, definitely not a fan of audience participation). This story is of couse a childhood favourite for many people and Storyhouse’s version will ensure it will be delightfully memorable for adults and children alike.

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