The Rose Theatre’s latest festive treat takes audiences to a wintery themed Wonderland – but does it fully embrace the madness of the world that Lewis Carroll created?
Having impressed audiences with their productions of ‘The Wind in the Willows’, ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ in previous years, the Rose Theatre has created another magical show that never talks down to the younger members of its audience.
Ciaran McConville’s thoughtful and heartfelt adaptation and production of Lewis Carroll’s beloved stories ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and the perhaps slightly lesser known ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ for the most part gets over the difficulties of adapting these stories for the stage with plenty of creativity and imagination.
Set in 1917, Alice in Winterland is automatically given a strong emotional core at the centre of it as her father returns home from the war injured and unable to care for 15 year old Alice who is about to be taken into the care of Aunt Margaret when a white rabbit asks for her help to rescue Wonderland from an eternity of winter.
But this isn’t to say that this is an overly serious and sombre adaptation, as there is still plenty of humour and fun to be found within the script – with plenty of emphasis on word play throughout that will appeal to audiences as well as lively performances from the cast.
Of course the main issue with any adaptation of Alice in Wonderland is in recreating this magical world into which Alice first enters by falling down a hole. But thanks to Timothy Bird’s set and video designs, audiences can really believe that they have fallen down into Wonderland as well – taking us into forests, dungeons and the Queen of Hearts palace beautifully.
There is also wonderful use of puppetry throughout, with the scary jabberwocky and the Bandersnatch being effectively controlled by four puppet operators as well as a charming smaller puppet version of Alice, conveying nicely the change in her height.
However, it feels as though the story can become increasingly muddled with characters and various plot lines placed differently in the wider context of the production which will confuse those who know both stories well. This lack of clarity can disrupt the flow and enjoyment in moments such as the meeting of Tweedledum and Tweedledee or the Mad Hatter’s tea party – which doesn’t come across as chaotic as it was in the book.
The references to Christmas and winter also seem a little bit few and far between – meaning that there isn’t as much Christmas spirit as you would expect.
But as always, the Rose Theatre is to be applauded for making so much use of its Youth Theatre, who inject plenty of energy and enthusiasm into the production. Leading the way was Madeleine Lynes as Alice, whose vulnerability and uncertainty helps to endear her to the audience as well as creating a solid foundation for the character’s development into self-confidence as a person. There is also a lovely performances from Jack Bartless as the Dodo, whose great sense of comic timing is a highlight and Frankie Oldham as the nervous White Rabbit.
Meanwhile, Susannah Van Den Berg as the Queen of Hearts is delightful to watch as she stamps her feet and throws temper tantrums throughout with great energy, while Amanda Gordon as the Cheshire Cat really capture’s Lewis Carroll’s original character perfectly delivering her lines with great rhythm and ease.
Overall, the Rose Theatre has created a wonderfully imaginative and flamboyant production that is just lacking slightly in sparkle to make it even better.
Alice in Winterland continues to play at the Rose Theatre until the 7th January. For more information and to book tickets visit: https://www.rosetheatrekingston.org/whats-on/alice-in-winterland