Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Alice in Wonderland***1/2, Jan 12, 2011

Alice in Wonderland
Adapted by Glenn Elston from Lewis Carroll, Australian Shakespeare Company
Rippon Lea House and Gardens, until Jan 29, 2011
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: *** 1/2

Not only does the audience at Alice In Wonderland have the opportunity to wander through the luxuriant Rippon Lea Gardens, the children get to teach the White Rabbit how to tell the time, crawl through an inflatable, multi-coloured rabbit tunnel, play death-defying croquet with the tempestuous Red Queen and scramble through the legs of the adults who become a pack of playing cards on the croquet field.

This new production, directed inventively by Kevin Hopkins, is one of Glenn Elston’s four outdoor, summer shows and it should be a runaway success with families. It features Lewis Carroll’s deliciously mad characters and nonsensical dialogue and the children squeal with delight at just about everything.

The story begins at the beginning, of course, and just keeps going on until the end, to paraphrase the Red King. The White Rabbit (Ashley McPherson) arrives in a prissy flurry of lateness (“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date”) and is then pursued by Alice (Gemma Bishop) and the entire audience of “little caterpillars” to the second location. (The show would be more streamlined for audience if the first location were simply on the lawn behind the first site.)

The vivid, cartoonish set design provides an eye-catching backdrop for the parade of eccentric, vibrantly costumed characters. Singable songs, live music and simple audience participation punctuate the physical action and help keep the children attentive.

The actors captivate the kids with their antics although there are occasional issues with vocal volume. Jamie McDonald’s Mad Hatter is funny and frenetic and he is well supported by Jonathan Dyer as the oafish March Hare and Kate Hosking as sweet, sleepy Dormouse. Bishop is a charmingly girlish Alice and McPherson engages with the White Rabbit’s games.

We are all shocked to be laughing so hard at Jacqueline Cook’s baby-abusing Duchess who is terrifyingly funny tossing her baby-doll in the air and feeding it pepper. The stilt-walking Red Queen (Lea Porcaro) and her subservient King (Gerard Schneider) are commanding. The Queen’s repeated cry, “Chop off her head!” and her insanely illogical court case are a hit. There is plenty to entertain and occupy all ages in this engaging and unpretentious show.

By Kate Herbert

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