Writer/Director: David Horlock
Reviewer: Beverley Haigh
The setting as the audience arrive in Cast’s Second Space is simple: an armchair, rug, numerous books, a box camera and tripod and an old bureau, evocative of a clergy’s lectern. All these clues to the piece that is Crocodiles in Cream, a line from one of Lewis Carroll’s poems that focuses on the academic and author’s life. Immediately we are transported back to the 19th Century and the rooms at Christ Church, Oxford in which Carroll spent many of his years.
This one-man show is played out by Kevin Moore and would be quite an undertaking for any actor, but Moore is a natural. He launches straight into the prose, with no introduction or warning – the audience almost assaulted by poetry as the piece begins, adjusting to what will become a constant fluctuation of nonsense and digressions. The following 90 minutes (although the fast pace makes it feel much shorter) are an outpouring of anecdotes, letters, stories and passages from Carroll’s works of fiction, delivered as if there is too much information to contain.
Moore does an impressive job with the material and gives the sense that it gushes forth from him, he cannot contain it and he needs to rush his words out, providing a very clear insight into the mind of Lewis Carroll. At times it comes out as absurd ramblings and babble: as Carroll himself admitted when challenged by fellow scholars and critics on the subject matter of his stories and poems: “I’m very much afraid I didn’t mean anything more than nonsense”.
The monologue flits between commentary on books Carroll has read: on Wuthering Heights, “of all the ones I would least like to be a character in”, to recognisable passages of Alice in Wonderland – the Caterpillar questioning Alice, “Who are you?” Moore has the difficult task of quoting both sets of lines, holding the conversation with himself. He achieves this admirably and brings the words to life with his fantastic characterisation and depiction of both Carroll and the other characters he undertakes, such as his faultless impersonation of the Cheshire Cat.
Moore wholeheartedly becomes the character he is playing and is the making of this piece. He has no difficulty with the language from yesteryear and delivers it as naturally as though the words are his own. He is a beguiling and natural storyteller, switching with ease to the letters of complaint Carroll wrote to the Stewards at Oxford to express his displeasure at the drainage, the milk, the food, in particular the cauliflower “which is edible everywhere except here” and his windows being cleaned at inappropriate times. These interspersed moments of humour add to the appeal and again offer insight into the author’s mind. Moore becomes the very essence of Carroll using his words that have enraptured and enthralled children for generations.
Occasionally the shift in narrative is broken up by music; sometimes just with a pause before launching into the next subject. This lack of cohesive storyline as such is what could be a drawback to the production reaching a wider audience and limits its appeal to the masses. However, it is a befitting tribute to Lewis Carroll for those with a genuine interest in his life and works, respectfully and sensitively portrayed. An ideal way of commemorating the 150th anniversary of the first publication of the timeless classic Alice in Wonderland.
Runs until: 10th June 2015, then touring