Writer: Lewis Carroll
Adaptor: Glyn Maxwell
Director: Derek Bond
Reviewer: John Roberts
Family shows at the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre have always had a strong stamp of originality and following the success of last year’s production of Stig of the Dump, the same creative team Glyn Maxwell (adaptor) and director Derek Bond have once again brought magic to city of Chester.
Transporting Caroll’s well known tale from the Wonderland of tradition, Bond’s retelling places the action in the eccentric surroundings of a boarding school, where the science teacher (Caterpillar), P.E Teacher (Duchess) and Humpty Dumpty (larger than life school boy), are among the familiar faces eager to teach young Alice (who here is herself just a figment of the poorly Alicia’s imagination) some important life lessons.
Maxwell’s script provides plenty to enjoy, there are some highly witty moments of wordplay which really comes alive when the artistic license is allowed some freedom, however, by placing the tale in an educational frame, there are times when the text becomes a little over factual which dampens the frivolity and joy of the text and feels rather heavy handed and dull. Despite this slight weakness, Bond manages to bring out the best from his tight knit ensemble who overall manage to cope with the demands of an outside, in the round arena incredibly well (especially considering there was a summer fayre taking place just yards from the theatre gates)
Rebecca Birch gives a pleasurable portrayal of the young heroine, strong and full of character and her metamorphosis into one of wonderland’s other iconic characters is a delight in this novel adaptation. Tom Connor brings plenty to enjoy with his rubber-faced expressions as the always joyous White Rabbit/March Hare and Daniel Goode is more than just a good egg with his hefty Humpty – there is also plenty of laughter courtesy of Alex Mugnaioni’s Mad Hatter.
A clever set design of Wonderland lettering by Jess Curtis provides a playground for the imagination and is utilised well in Bond’s pacey and unfussy direction, arguably more could have been made with the music within the piece – at times Jude Obermuller’s compositions – especially when given full songs add a real layer to the piece but when it is used merely as a filler it tends to fall a little flat.
As an introduction to theatre Alice in Wonderland provides plenty to enjoy however one would argue it is perhaps more for the older child (7+), it may not be the version of Carroll’s tale you were expecting, but with plenty of laughter, originality and in a fantastic theatre space some of the shows misgivings can easily be forgiven.
Runs until the end of August in Rep | Image: Contributed