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Join the Co-op Juniors Theatre Company and Alice in Wonderland at Snape this Christmas

PUBLISHED: 12:23 30 November 2015 | UPDATED: 12:23 30 November 2015

The Co-op Juniors Theatre Company's Christmas Spectacular this year in Alice is Wonderland. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

The Co-op Juniors Theatre Company's Christmas Spectacular this year in Alice is Wonderland. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

© Mike Kwasniak Photography 2015

The Co-op Juniors Theatre Company invite you to take a tumble down the rabbit hole this Christmas, as they stage Alice in Wonderland. Curiouser and curiouser, thinks entertainment writer Wayne Savage.

Parents cut out costumes ready to be made into theatre magic for Alice in WonderlandParents cut out costumes ready to be made into theatre magic for Alice in Wonderland

It’s resident directors Pauline Walker and Jeannie Ingram’s 11th year at Snape.

“It all about ideas,” agrees Walker. “We’re passionate about what we do and want the audience to come out feeling happy and festive after our Christmas finale. And there are so many surprises in store.”

Rebecca Darcy, meanwhile, is taking on her first Christmas Spectacular at Snape as director. It’s been a journey of discovery.

“This is a major show,” she laughs. “With a big cast and so many musical numbers it needs everyone to pull together to make it work. The group has amazing studios provided by East of England Co-op so the resources are fantastic and the entire production team is committed to making it a success.”

Andy Dessaur and Rob Kirk create the maze hedges for the Queen of Hearts' palace garden for the Co-op Juniors Alice in WonderlandAndy Dessaur and Rob Kirk create the maze hedges for the Queen of Hearts' palace garden for the Co-op Juniors Alice in Wonderland

The show opens a week earlier than usual this year and there’s more magic than ever before. As Alice tumbles into Wonderland through the pages of a giant book, the Cheshire Cat appears magically in a mirror, a caterpillar floats by on a giant mushroom and an entire Mad Hatter’s tea party appears through the floor.

“Our musical director, Nigel Virley, has adapted Lewis Carroll’s wonderful book to celebrate its 150th anniversary. We’ve stayed faithful to the original but added our own style with characters, music and dance to make this a fabulous adventure for the whole family,” adds Darcy.

Bringing something so ambitious to the stage requires as many behind the scenes as there are in the company. Nearly 100 people are involved with set, costumes, painting, props, sound and lighting.

Ingram and Cilla Tricker, who produce many hundreds of costumes each year, relish the challenge.

Co-op Juniors Theatre Company's Christmas Spectacular this year is Alice in Wonderland. Photo: Mike KwasniakCo-op Juniors Theatre Company's Christmas Spectacular this year is Alice in Wonderland. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

“We’ve been working on Alice since we finished The Phantom of the Opera in July,” says Ingram. “It’s been full on to produce costumes for so many principal characters as well as the entire cast of dancers and singers.”

Choreographer Luke Cattermole and Darcy have to turn their talents to coping with many different styles of dance too.

“It’s exciting to be involved in something on this scale with a huge stage and a large group of talented young people,” says Cattermole. “The challenge is to come up with new, creative, fun choreography to make it a visual feast for the audience. With the beautiful costumes and lighting, it looks amazing.”

The massive stage set has been specially built, with multiple mobile scenic units which provide different locations from the woods and a palace garden to the seashore and the famous Queen of Hearts trial scene.

Playing Alice is 12-year-old Courtney Yule in her first major role.

“There’s so much to do and a lot to take in, I feel a bit like Alice when she gets confused in this crazy world where the Queen of Hearts invites her to play croquet with flamingoes. It’s all mad and so much fun.”

When the Queen of Hearts, played by Peter Ling, glides imperiously across the stage, she towers above everyone else. The secret is another piece of stage magic and the idea of the group’s technical director Alan Ayres.

He adds: “Creating a convincing Wonderland is a big team effort with talented designers and crew building and painting the various set pieces, from fluorescent mushrooms to huge underground roots and an entire palace garden with hedges. It’s a bit like watching Avatar at times, it’s magical... Which is the point, it’s Wonderland after all.”

The Co-op Juniors Theatre Company Christmas Spectacular Alice in Wonderland runs December 4-13 at Snape Maltings Concert Hall. Don’t be late for this very important date.


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