Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Talegate Theatre

Friday, 19 August, 2011

Musical Alice

Edinburgh, thespace@venue45 –  15-20 Aug 11  –  12:45  –  22-27 Aug 14:15 (1 hour)

Talegate Theatre present an ambitious musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, complete with original songs, entertaining choreography and puppetry.  The company change roles at breakneck pace, portraying all thirty Wonderland characters, and are well  supported by some stunning costume design by James Worthington and Danny Mills.  Those familiar with Lewis Carroll’s novel will be delighted to find all their favourite sections presented in an episodic style, in keeping with the tone of the novel itself – a nice directorial decision from director James Worthington.  Pleasing staging and innovative use of props and set serve to transport the viewer into the world of Wonderland, and the dynamic energy of the cast encapsulates well the mayhem and madness of the text.

The piece begins by introducing Alice’s humdrum everyday world, where adults dismiss her imaginative nature and have little time for her playful ways.  Beginning on a colourful tableaux that establishes the eccentricity one can expect from the next hour, the cast launch into a manic opening number, setting a breath-taking pace that is maintained throughout the piece.  Danny Mills is suitably jittery as the punctually-disadvantaged White Rabbit as he scurries about the stage, leaving a curious Alice – played by an expressive and child friendly Alana Doherty – in his wake.

As Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole the audience are plunged into darkness, and audio is used effectively to create the sensation of falling.  Some tongue in cheek perspective tricks (one involving a very wobbly, ‘magically’ growing table) keep the adults giggling and the kids enthralled as we watch Alice eat and drink her way through whatever Wonderland presents her with.  A surprisingly obnoxious door puppet (voiced by Robert Nicholas) is well received, and in a nice little nod to its Disney counterpart has an excellent range of facial expressions.  The range of puppets in this production is impressive – the door mouse, caterpillar and some adorable little oysters all feature, and are operated by various members of the company at different points.

The songs are a particular highlight, each capturing the essence of Lewis Carroll’s work, and embracing many different musical styles – of particular note are the jazz inspired numbers, sang and scatted well by Kate Lindsey and Laura Candine.  The lyrics – also by Kate Lindsey – are a real treat, greatly enhancing the story-telling as a whole.  The company sing each song with gusto, and the songs are catchy enough that children want to join in, and adults will be humming them as they leave the theatre.  There is also another clever directorial twist at the end of the production, as all seven songs are sung in reverse to chart Alice’s departure from Wonderland.

As each performer takes on so many different roles, it is difficult to single any one out –  James Worthington is charismatic in all roles, and especially fun to watch as the kooky Mad Hatter; Laura Canadine is engaging and moves well as the Cheshire Cat; Kate Lindsey suitably imposing as the Queen of Hearts, and has great physicality in her role as the Dodo.  Robert Nicholas shows himself to be a versatile performer particularly when in double acts, playing a suitably unnerving Tweedle Dee to Danny Mills’ obnoxious Tweedle Dum, and equally pleasing as the hopeless West Country Playing Cards with Laura Canadine.

Talegate theatre clearly know their stuff when it comes to family entertainment; the panto-esque routines will keep the younger audience members entertained, the playfulness as an ensemble is lovely to watch, and their commitment to telling a story is commendable.  Much fun to be had by all.

Cast Credits*:  Laura Canadine  –  Cheshire Cat.   Alana Doherty  –  Alice.  Lindsey  –  Queen of Hearts.  Danny Mills  –  White Rabbit.  Robert Nicholas  –  March Hare.  James Worthington  –  Mad Hatter.

*NB – each performer covers several roles, are only billed as main.

Company Credits:  Director  –  James Worthington.  Original Novel  –  Lewis Carroll.  Script adaptation & original material  –  James Worthington.  Lyrics  –  Kate Lindsey.  Choreography  –  Marc Small.  Musical Director  –  Harold Purvis.  Costume & Props  –  Danny Mills & James Worthington.  Wardrobe Assistant  –  Heather Baker.  Set  –  James Worthington & Brian Worthington.  Publicity Photography  –  Leah Meads.  Videographer  –  Nathan Hughes.  Media & Marketing  –  Kate Lindsey & James Worthington.  Front of House  –  Nick Gribben.  Administration  –  Kate Lindsey.  http://www.talegatetheatre.co.uk

(c) Emma MacLennan 2011

Reviewed Tuesday 16th August 2011 / thespace@venue45, Edinburgh

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