Friday, 9 December 2016

"Alice In Wonderland"
Derby Theatre.
This is a new adaptation by Mike Kenny of the Lewis Carroll classic book. You sometimes wonder about adaptations and how far they will go, but no need to worry with this one.
The story is all there but it's told from a more up to date and conventional start where Alice is a school girl on the morning of her exams. Her mother is calling for her to wake up and letting her know just how important the exams are to her.
She awakes and is on her way to school, trying to remember everything that she needs for the exam, books, pen, pencil case, books.....calculator, when the bullies set upon her, but fortunately the teacher intervenes. The exams start and in a swirl of dizziness, the exam master, Mr Buck, evolves into the March Hare and the rest of the magical story begins.
It's a lovely pre Christmas piece of theatre for all ages with a very modern feel which is aimed, primarily at the school child age. With an aerialist section to emulate the falling down the rabbit hole by Alice, the revolving stage and several mini Alices to hand to get her through the right doors to the garden, this show is an absolute treat.
A wonderful revolving set which also provides part of the backdrop to several of the scenes; the set being the design of Neil Irish, who also did an amazing job as the costume designer. as you know this story is outlandish and therefore the costumes have to match that description.
There's also a very effective cinematic backdrop which gives an altogether bigger and freer feel to the musical as well as giving the feeling of dropping down the hole and being magically whisked off to another dimension. This being the design of Barrett Hodgson.
The cast are just amazingly good fun to watch and Dominic Rye who plays the Mad Hatter is wonderfully quirky. Abby Wain, who plays Alice is also a very gifted actor, singer, dancer as well as aerialist, which for those who don't know is when you dangle from a massive silk scarf from the roof and do marvellous aerobatic things with it.
The rest of the cast covered quite a large age range and the kids in it were simply adorable. The way they worked that stage in the choreography numbers (Kitty Winter) shows an incredible maturity and confidence.
The whole cast worked smoothly as one company and much as I'd love to highlight several of them, I just found that they all worked as equals and there was no one who stuck out for being any better than the rest. A rare thing with such a large cast.
The music is created by the actors themselves on stage and covered several musical genres.Ivan Stott wrote the original music which meandered from Madness style singalongs about the baby, to a gangsta rap piece, through to gorgeous Irish lilting melodies and a rock number by Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. I wish the soundtrack was available to buy as a constant reminder of the show.
The lighting design by Emma Jones was perfect in every way and added to the magic of the musical. Very atmospheric.
Directed by Sarah Brigham, she kept the ship tight but pacy; just what was needed when part of your audience is at that age where concentration is not uppermost.
What is there not to like about this show? Well if there was anything, I certainly couldn't find it. At just under two hours, with break, this show is the perfect all family alternative to pantomime.
"Alice In Wonderland" is at Derby Theatre until Saturday 7 January 2017, so don't leave it too late!

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