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THEATRE REVIEW: Alice in Wonderland @ Northern Stage

December 21, 2017 11:35 am

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Review by Hannah Wilkin

ALICE IN WONDERLAND Alexandra Tahnee as Alice with Newcastle College chorus, image by Pamela Raith

Image by Pamela Raith

“But I don’t want to go among mad people”, said Alice.

“Oh you can’t help that,” said the cat, “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad”.

“How do you know I’m mad?” asked Alice.

“You must be,” said the cat, “Or you wouldn’t have come”.

From zipping around on luggage trolleys to trapdoors, giant puppets and high wire stunts, Northern Stage’s production of Alice in Wonderland certainly is mad for all the right reasons.

At times, the production felt dizzying; we were peering in all different directions of the theatre to catch the mad goings on between characters, but this was all part of the charm of the production. It really did feel as though we had tumbled down the rabbit hole with Alice into a fascinating, nonsensical world. It’s not a total match of Carroll’s story, but rather, a fusion of both Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass with a bit of imagination thrown in – but it still features the same, well loved, characters and craziness of the book.

Whilst the characters were familiar, the cast seemed to have put a new spin on each of them, whether that was through accent, costume or the style of singing. Alice was portrayed in a rather more adventurous and gutsy way than traditionally. Rather than being a well-educated, dainty middle-class child, our Alice was a hard working Geordie girl who bounded about the stage, going wherever her curiosity took her. (And she didn’t once cry which was enough to win me over!)

Throughout the performance, the ‘Wonderband’ provided an incredible mixture of punk and jazz music with a bit of the can-can thrown in, which seemed to capture the chaos unfolding on stage perfectly. Some of the band members were also characters in the story and it was very impressive to see them rock away on the bass guitar, only to scuttle on as the White Rabbit moments later.

Some wonderful tricks were used to create scenes that would seem near impossible to create on stage. The Jabberwocky, for example, was a huge Chinese-dragon-like puppet which danced above our heads, with glowing eyes and smoke pouring from it’s jaws, before it swallowed the Red Queen whole. The Cheshire Cat was very cleverly created with three fur-clad actors brandishing parasols to mimic the cats eyes and mouth, which could grow and shrink and disappear.

The highlight of the show had to be the food fight. Alice, The White Queen, The Mad Hatter and March Hare pelted us with foam slices of cake and jam tarts. Beach balls decorated like Christmas puddings bounced around our heads and everyone revelled in throwing the food at the cast and each other. This came right at the end of the show and – as cake rained down and the theatre filled with laughter – it really did feel like we had all become as mad as the inhabitants of Wonderland!

Northern Stage’s Alice in Wonderland is a surprising, bonkers and sparky production; it’s sure to put you in an excitable and festive mood.

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