Red Rose Chain sends Alice back into Wonderland for Christmas
PUBLISHED: 17:44 10 December 2018
Alice in Wonderland is not an obvious choice for Christmas but, as Wayne Savage found out, it provides fun-filled alternative to pantomime
Alice in Wonderland, Red Rose Chain, The Avenue Theatre, Ipswich, until December 31
Regional theatre has found itself in the spotlight of late. There’s no better advertisement for the treasures to be found outside of London than this joyous adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic.
Director Joanna Carrick has stuck closely to the original tale, given to the original Alice as a Christmas gift in the late 1800s. The show’s look and feel, designed with producer David Newborn and choreographer Katy Frost, is inspired by Sir John Tenniel’s original drawings.
It’s not as Christmassy as last year’s The Elves and The Shoemaker or, say The Magic Fishbone; swapping seasonal sentiment for a tremendously trippy tumble down the rabbit hole.
While not a pantomime - this is an adaptation of a classic – and the cast has plenty of fun with the audience.
At one point I found myself on stage facing trial for stealing the Red Queen’s tarts. There’s some slapstick, a sing-along, surreal swordfights... it sounds cliche but there truly is something for everyone. There’s even a Brexit joke and there was something awfully familiar about Humpty Dumpty.
The play hits every beat fans of the original would expect, although not always in the way you’d anticipate. The entertaining recital of Carroll’s nonsense poem Jabberwocky - included in Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There - is just one example.
His work is perfect fodder for Carrick, who takes the writer’s already madcap premise and runs with it; adding perfectly timed flourishes to breathe new life into the well-worn story.
The casting is perfect.
Darren Latham is as delightful in a multitude of roles here as he was in last year’s Elves. Lawrence Russell, excellent in The Importance of Being Earnest and Happy Idiot’s Not Lady Chatterley’s Lover, embraced one crazy character after another with ease.
It’s the latter’s Earnest and Chatterley cohort Leonie Spilsbury who drives this show. Never off stage, she brings charm, comedic timing, warmth and an exuberance of energy that in other people’s hands could become tiring.
Don’t be late getting your tickets.