Part of Christmas On Stage, the Lyceumâ€™s new production of Alice In Wonderland has a magnificent Victorian setting â€“ for which, of course, the theatre is a gift.
Based on Lewis Carrollâ€™s original novel, this production is Â created and directed by Anthony Neilson, the composer is Nick Powell and lighting director, Tim Mitchell. The set design comes fromÂ Francis Oâ€™Connor – clearly inspired by Sir John Tennielâ€™s original illustrations for Carrollâ€™s tale.
From the staid Edwardian beginning to the random world underneath, the set colours are vivid, the scenes just crazy enough to be dreamlike and chaotic â€“ without, thankfully, turning to pantomime â€“ and of course it all gets â€˜curiouser and curiouserâ€™. The special effects are an appealing addition: the sun (aka a giant video screen) and the harness and grapple line, which assist Alice falling down the rabbit hole, and enable her shrinking and growing respecitvely, not to mention bringing us the disembodied Cheshire Cat,
The word play, the philosophical phrases, the riddles all shine through but thereâ€™s enough slapstick to keep the younger audience happy too: the six year old with me was sold from the start with the hot air balloons floating across the audience â€“ oh, and the White Rabbitâ€™s droppings sputtering all over the stage.
Smart and funny, the production is true to Carrollâ€™s original, with some changes that work: notably, the Queen of Heartsâ€™ trial isnâ€™t about stolen tarts but about what comprises the mock turtle soup…
The casting is spot on, from Jess Peetâ€™s Alice, staying calm and logical amongst the mayhem to the wonderfully Mad HatterÂ (Tam Dean Burn). Then thereâ€™s the hookah-smoking caterpillar (ZoÃ« Hunter), Isobel McArthurâ€™s narcoleptic dormouse who makes doors, and the despotic â€˜off with their headsâ€™ Queen of Hearts, played with relish by Gabe Quigley.
David Carlyle is the Gryphon, John Macaulay the King, and Alan Francis does an admirable job of not quite turning the duchess into a pantomime dame.
I enjoyed it. The six year old enjoyed it â€“ and with a very near the mark comment: â€˜It wasnâ€™t a proper story though, it was Alison Wonderland going on a tripâ€™. Er, quite.
Hallucinatory. Psychedelic. Anarchic-enough. All the fun of Christmas, then, without any compromise on an excellent production that is fine theatre any time of the year.
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