THEATRE REVIEW: Alice In Wonderland

Our critic goes down the rabbit hole for the Dilys Guite Players’ latest production.

“WE’RE ALL mad here.”

That’s about the truest thing said in this phantasmagoric trip down a rabbit hole.

A river of salt tears, a luminescent Cheshire Cat, a wonderfully silly Mad Hatter’s tea party, a gloriously daft soup song, painting white roses red, and a teacher called Tortoise — because “he taught us”.

Lewis Carroll’s world of nonsense, adapted by Brainerd Duffield as a series of vignettes from Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, is uproariously brought to life in a joyously epic production by Dilys Guite Players’ finest. 

From ingenious sets to imaginative costumes, swiftly-changing music to deftly-skilled special effects, accomplished singing to dainty dancing, it really is a wonder of the small stage.

And it’s wonderfully directed by Kevin Jackson and Harry Rowbotham's giving full rein to a superb cast, many playing several parts, in a show as surreal and energised as anything from the psychedelic, drug-fuelled ‘60s — except of course Carroll wrote it in the 1860s. 

Alice the incredibly shrinking girl is beautifully played by Hannah Thomas.

Blessed with a great voice, she transforms herself from insecure child to young woman with ease and charm.

Will Couchman’s White Rabbit - a “whittler”, as they say in these parts — is a quivering wreck, a frenetically lovable character.

Regal eccentricity comes in the overbearing shape of Mark Kenny as a fabulous Queen of Hearts, constantly uttering threats of “Off with their heads” to her minions.

James A Simms as the sneaky March Hare (and Cheshire Cat and carpenter) and Alex Wilson as the weirdly paternal Mad Hatter (and also Walrus), make a delightfully dim double act, while Michelle Kelly snores and squeaks her way into our hearts as Dormouse.

As a hookah-smoking Caterpillar, Vivienne Mager (who also plays an only too keen Executioner) is gloriously languid, with just a touch of Lady Bracknell as she admonishes Alice for hinting she may be vertically challenged.

 

Steve Eddison is a little comic gem all of his own, bringing fun and pathos to his roles as Mouse, Frog Footman and most especially Mock Turtle.

Tom Davey-Rogerson is a very fishy Fish Footman and a nicely-honed Griffin. Georgina Stone is a wacky White Queen and an absolutely gorgeous — and bonkers — Duchess.

As King of Hearts, Tim Baron — who is also a madcap cook — has that royal way of looking down one’s nose down to perfection and playing Tweedledee alongside the comically and musically-gifted Sue Burgess (also playing 2 of Spades) as Tweedledum, the pair bring a lovely Stan and Ollie quality to the Turtle Song.

Hannah Pamplin (also Knave of Hearts and 7 of Spades) makes a cracking Humpty Dumpty and Bridgette Rouse is a warm and kindly Red Queen, as well as doing a fine job as 5 of Spades.

Top marks to the rest of the creative team, with Michelle Kelly as musical director, Duncan Parsons for the lobster quadrille music and sound engineer, Phil Claxton, stage manager and set builder, Rachel Taylor for photography, craft and wardrobe.

Off with their heads? Too late, they’re all off their heads already.

Alice In Wonderland is at the Sheffield Lantern Theatre until Saturday.

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