Alice in Wonderland is a story that most will associate with the 1951 Disney Animation of the same name. However, the tale dates back to 1865 with Lewis Carroll’s novel ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’.
With over 150 years of history, the story has taken on many forms. From music, television, dozens of films and even stage adaptations in the form of musicals or plays. Having only really been exposed to the film adaptations, I was curious to check out the latest stage version at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre. Titled, Alice in Wonderland Live, this production of Lewis Carroll’s classic is as close to the original work as you can get.
Written and directed by Penny Farrow, the play opens with a poem titled ‘Jabberwocky’, direct from Carroll’s second book, ‘Through the Looking Glass’. Recited by the ensemble cast, the poem is a range of strange and interesting words and is seemingly nonsensical. A perfect introduction to what would be a journey through a realm of equally nonsensical creatures and experiences.
After the curious prelude, we are introduced to Éwyon Turner as Alice and a panicked Lucy Fox as The White Rabbit. Surprised by the talking rabbit, Alice follows the peculiar creature down the rabbit hole and falls into the wonderful world beneath.
This production has all of your favourite Alice in Wonderland creatures with Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee portrayed by Justine Anderson and Matlida Simmons respectively. Nicholas Jaquinot as The March Hare and Jackson McGovern as The Dormouse, seen sitting at The Mad Hatter’s tea party. McGovern also doubles as The Caterpillar that shares the stage with Simon Burvell-Holmes as The Cheshire Cat. All dressed in fantastic costuming by Gayle MacGregor and Diana Eden, and with incredibly detailed puppets by Chris Barlow, these book characters are brought to life.
Éwyon Turner is great as Alice, never tripping up on any of the lengthy and complicated dialogue. However, the clear standouts of the production are Catherine Glavicic as the Mad Hatter and Simon Burvell-Holmes in his second role as The Queen of Hearts.
I was captivated by Glavicic’s perfect delivery of the Mad Hatter. Her body language, tone and facial expressions had me hanging on every line. Her chemistry with fellow party guests The March Hare (Nicholas Jaquinot) and The Dormouse (Jackson McGovern) made the entire tea party scene was wonderfully hilarious. Burvell-Holmes’ Queen of Hearts was equally as fantastic. It was clear he was having the best time in the role, endlessly shouting “Off with their head!” every chance he got. And much like Glavicic, the facial expressions really helped sell the character.
With the aforementioned stunning costuming and incredibly detailed puppet design, the production wouldn’t be complete without the wonderful set and prop design from Dieter Barry who also aided in the puppet design. I was super impressed with how Alice shrunk in size as she attempted to enter the tiny door at the start of the show. Rather than trying to make Alice smaller, the potion bottle progressively got larger. A clever illusion of forced perspective. Everything about this show is unmistakeably Alice in Wonderland and I thoroughly enjoyed being transported into this strange world with Alice.
For over an hour duration, Alice in Wonderland Live covers all the key elements of Lewis Carroll’s timeless classic. For a story that is over 150 years old, the cast and creative team have done extremely well to portray Alice In Wonderland as faithfully to the original story as possible. It is short and sweet, and I enjoyed watching it.
Alice in Wonderland Live is performing now at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre until Sunday the 8th of January.
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