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Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

6 - 8 February 2015

Tim Rowland

Adapted by Eva La Gallienne & Florida Friebus

Presented by the younger members of the youth group

Join The Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and the perplexed Alice for a thrilling and magical adventure for all the family.


Performances

Fri 7:45pm, Sat 2:45pm, Sun 2:45pm

Synopsis

The younger members of the Youth Theatre are performing arguably one of the best-loved children's books of all time. Directed by Tim Rowland, with a talented cast, both Alice in Wonderland and Through the looking glass are respectfully brought up to date in this crazy, hip-hop infused, hilarious, nonsensical extravaganza!

Join in with the world famous and absurd characters including The Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, along with the perplexed Alice for a thrilling and magical adventure for all the family.

Review

One of the most famous and heavily analysed novels in English Literature, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland has had many theatrical and screen outings since it was first published in 1865. Lewes Theatre youth director Tim Rowland chose the Eva Le Gallienne and Florida Friebus script, first produced in 1932, that lovingly retains the rich Victorian language and imagery. This is a very successful adaptation that returned to Broadway in 1983 with Eva Gallienne revisiting the piece, as an actress, playing the White Witch alongside Kate Burton (daughter of Richard Burton) as Alice.

Eva said of the original production "in 1932, we had Peter Pan in repertory, and I wanted to do another play that would be attractive to both children and grown ups, Miss Friebus suggested Alice. We wanted to make the book come alive, a heavy responsibility, and there’s not a word in the play that’s not Lewis Carroll’s. It’s extraordinary how much of it is very much of today. Think of the upside down math, the chopped- up logic."

The Youth Theatre rehearsed this production twice a week and it was really encouraging to see that Tim Rowland felt his young cast were up to the challenge of developing and portraying the fantastical gallery of characters and tackling the richness of the original, dense language. So successful were they in fulfilling the task that it was very easy to forget they weren’t using language immediately familiar to them. The large cast covered 32 parts between them. All, apart from the wonderfully assured Becky Clark as Alice, played multiple parts.

Shows such as this are only successful if the actors are confident, committed and brave in what they are doing – however unnatural the narrative, language and physicality. It was clear that all the cast had been given the right kind of imaginative training and foundation to achieve this.

So we were treated to the enigmatic, spaced out Caterpillar and gorgeous Dormouse - Philly Hunter, the mad bad and dangerous to know Queen of Hearts - Mel Henderson - also strong as the lugubrious Humpty Dumpty, Henry Fouch’s charismatic Crab and quicksilver Mad Hatter, Rowan O’Clarey’s bonkers cook who juggled with pans, Connie Pike’s endearing White Rabbit, great physical work from Leon Capparucci as Dodo and Fish Footman, Flo Winter as Duck, Maisie Curren’s Duchess and Kezia Scripps’s Knave of Hearts. There were absolutely no small parts or blank moments. This is not an easy show to pull off and all the cast contributed brilliantly to the whole in the spirit of theatre as a rich group experience.

Modern cultural references included numerous contemporary musical links with sound by young member Charlie Pope, Lucy Zara and Evie Flynn relishing the opportunity to play Tweedledum and Tweedledee as gangster rappers and Lola O’Donoghue hilariously creating a celebrity culture airhead to play the White Queen. Special mention needs to be made of the many detailed costumes that were essential to the richness and enjoyment of the show. Clearly all the stops had been pulled out for the young cast. The colourful characters had the perfect backdrop in the cleanly designed and executed set. Along with the imaginative lighting, young member Cameron Wallis assisted by Mike Batchelor, used gem-like colours and gobos to create location and atmosphere. As well as artfully designed props and furniture, the show had high and effective production values.

In the absence of a pantomime at Lewes Theatre this production lent itself very well to filling that slot as borne out by the family audience reaction. It’s clear that Tim Rowland had worked very hard and with a lot of commitment. This was not only a really well produced show but a testament to the development of the Youth Theatre and the young performers it trains and nurtures.

Lucie Fitchett