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Alice - but not as you know her

Alice, Criterion Theatre, Earlsdon, Coventry, Dec 10-17.

Review by Barbara Goulden

Certainly, this is a play of two halves with the second far exceeding the first as its young cast grew in confidence.

The Lewis Carroll classic story of Alice In Wonderland has been updated for the stage by playwright Laura Wade who retains all the familiar characters while giving them a more contemporary twist starting with a rather sad funeral before heartbroken Alice (Anya Coleman) is enticed down the rabbit hole - in this case a yawning great fireplace - by the White Rabbit (Zach McDermott).

I'm not entirely sure what smaller members of Saturday night's audience made of the earlier scenes but they were certainly chuckling towards the end as Humpty Dumpty (Emma Whewell) turns up and the Queen of Hearts (Hannah Patricia) organises her game of croquet before bellowing "Off With Their Heads" with giddy abandon.

These two veterans - along with Anne-marie Greene - helped raise the game of the rest of the cast, largely made up of members of the Criterion's Saturday drama school.

Teenage Anya will alternate her title role with Ella Moorley and both have a lot to contend with as they have to play the "straight women" to the increasingly crazy rest of the cast like Daisy-Mae Sweatman and Alexandra Vickers having the time of their lives as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, as well as a host of other characters.

I visibly cringed as Anne-marie in her Duchess role began throwing her baby pig about while displaying her desperate need for a best friend before returning as a depressed mock turtle to display her Strictly Come Dancing skills.

It's hard to pick out the stars of the future in such an ensemble piece but they were certainly there under the able direction of Alan Fenn.

Personally, I would have liked more glitter in the set - well it is Christmas - and couldn't really recommend it for the under tens if only because of its length and complexity. I may be proved wrong by the end of the week.

And it's certainly an interesting show which definitely becomes curiouser and curiouser. I suspect also funnier and funnier as the cast relax.

Janet Malatesta, who also reviewed the show thought the opening grieving scene was quite unusual and the first set on the slow side which led to a faster, inventive and illogical visit to Wonderland in the second half. There, some may have struggled to make sense of Alice’s emotive situation and complexities of thought. But she found that it was a strong performance from Alice who was on stage throughout the performance.


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