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Alice, A Virtual Theme Park – Creation Theatre

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Creator: Creation Theatre

Director: Zoe Seaton

The high tech shows keep on coming. The Electric Dreams Online Festival, now entering its last week, has extended the boundaries of what we can expect from online theatre, but Alice, A Virtual Theme Park from Creation Theatre may have pushed those boundaries even further. Employing multiple Zoom rooms, and an interactive game to be played on a phone, Alice runs smoothly and looks impressive, and so it’s a shame that the story is confused.

Although advertised as an experience for all the family, Alice struggles to find its audience. Entering Wonderland the screen offers you a choice of destinations. Do you want to meet the Queen of Hearts or watch Tweedledum and Tweedledee perform acrobatics? Each decision you take leads you to a new Zoom room where you could watch a cookery lesson given by the Queen’s cook or watch a short play performed in the confines of the Mad Hatter’s hat. Each skit only lasts a few minutes, but with their mixture of toilet humour and the absurd, it’s hard to know whom this show is for.

Some of these sideshows work, and who knew that playing Musical Statues could be so fun on Zoom, but on press night most of the 44 Zoom participants were adults. It would be interesting to see how children respond to it, especially the long final section where the cast all come together to discover who stole the Queen’s tarts. Each actor is presumably dialling in from home, but with matching screen backgrounds and some excellent switching between screens, the cast work as an ensemble. However, this final scene is too frenetic and the story flirts with tiresomeness.

What is most striking is that almost all of it is performed live, and there is great fun when the actors interact with the people watching from home. This is so successful that you wish every section of the show used this device. As the Queen, Vera Chok is a suitably vicious monarch, hilarious in the Musical Statues round, but less funny when she tells Tweedledum to punch his brother in the kidneys. As the twins, Tom Richardson is as quick as lightning in his duo role, but often his routine is just not funny.

As the Italian cook, Annabelle Terry, sporting a solid monobrow, is funnier, but without audience participation, her sketch does linger too long while Dharmesh Patel’s performance as the Mad Hatter is suitably mad, though not always entertaining. As Alice, Leda Douglas’s part seems to be the only one pre-recorded, and she brings some sanity to the proceedings.

The 80 minutes speed by, spurred on by the flawless technology, and having new Zoom rooms is definitely more fun that the Break-Out rooms used by other theatre companies. Hopefully, as the show progresses Creation Theatre will have a greater understanding of who their audience is likely to be, and tailor the jokes and absurdities accordingly. More interactive games to keep the little ones busy would be handy too. Alice is curious, but could be curiouser still.

Runs here until 30 August 2020

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