“I’m just going to change..” says the Caterpillar, played by Jonathan Dryden Taylor, exiting the stage and revealing his butterfly wings, just one of the many clever jokes in Storyhouse’s second show, Alice in Wonderland. “We’re all mad here” concludes another of the cast.. We all go a little mad sometimes.
Adapted by Glynn Maxwell from Lewis Carroll’s classic book, in contrast to the adult’s only Beggar’s Opera, Alice offers a chance for the whole family to enjoy the atmosphere in the fantastic new theatre. The play’s cast of psychedelic characters will amuse theatre goers young and old , and alongside the riotous personalities on show, for the adults a reflection on the nature of reality worthy of a Steven Moffat episode of Doctor Who.
From the initial twist of having both Alice (Rebecca Birch) and Alicia (Anna Leong Brophy) as dual protaganists, the opening half is a pacy tour of the magical netherworld down the rabbit hole. We meet a neurotic white rabbit and an upper class Humpty Dumpy (with mention of his brother Nigel Dumpty) and some hilarious Scouse accented flowers. Alice ‘s attempt at discouraging Humpty from making poor life choices fails, as he heads for a fall from a very high wall. One of the joys of having a large rep cast is seeing your favourite actors in a range of roles, thus Alex Mugnainoi, the sinister Macheath from Beggar’s Opera is the sassy /insane Mad Hatter, and the Beggar himself Caoloan McCarthy is the smirking Cheshire Cat. Alice herself, Rebecca Birch impresses with her depiction of both wonder and despair at being trapped in a strange world, with an emotional ballad “hometime” a highlight. Her metamorphosis at the end of the first half was also an interesting twist on the original story.
Simply staged with large letters spelling out “wonderland” spread out across the stage, this simplicity will work well when the show transfers to the ever popular Grosvenor Park open air theatre later in the summer.
Alice in Wonderland is hugely enjoyable, with the multi talented cast delivering an evening of surreal mind bending fun. When the cast talk in riddles or sing nonsense song song “Caloo Calay” you may wonder if you are dreaming yourself. With the simple set, it is the characters themselves that deliver the wonder here, with a stream of inventive set pieces, a frustrated pawn reading the “Chess-ter Chronicle” or Tweedle dum and Tweedle Dee reimagined as a pair or rival sports fans.
As the show concludes and the reality of the situation is revealed, the rousing closing musical number cleverly reflects upon the stories we have heard and the stories of the future, a neat link to the Storyhouse itself, and the exciting new world we have stumbled upon in reality. “And a different story every day..” Another hit!