Creation Theatre Company - Alice
18th August to 13th September 2015.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Perfect time for Alice
Creation Theatre: Alice, at St Hugh's College, Oxford, until September 13
Creation Theatre Company's second promenade production of the summer, Alice, takes place in the stately gardens of St Hugh's College, off the Banbury Road just north of the city centre. Entering the lawns outside the entrance block you see a theme park-style sign 'Wonderland' that entices you to explore locations within the gardens. On bank holiday Sunday, it was a damp, drizzly day so the ushers helpfully provided people with free plastic ponchos to keep out the rain. The many children in the audience trooped around happily, following the actors to scenes where there were low-level benches provided for them.
Alice, adapted by Kate Kerrow from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, is split into 45-minute halves with an interval. There's a cast of only four but it feels like 40, so inventive is Helen Tennison's direction. Matt Eaton once again provides a stunning sound design that amplifies the ticking of the clock and the scraping sounds of clockwork dolls as the actors slowly rotate like they're trapped in a music box.
Of many well-worked scenes, the Mad Hatter's Tea Party excels. A long table with a checkered tablecloth laden with stacked cups and saucers, cakes and a teapot (design, Ryan Dawson Laight) is set on a lawn below a tree with spreading branches and sinister large leaves. A delicate chandelier hangs overhead. Time is frozen at six o'clock. Alice, (a magnificent performance from Rachel-Mae Brady) leaps on to a chair and is accused by the March Hare of tormenting innocent creatures. You cannot take your eyes off Alice, delightful in her light blue dress. The Hatter (James Burton), grotesque under a triple hat, is frantic about keeping on side with time. The long-eared Dormouse puppet, animated by Luke Chadwick-Jones, loses track of time and falls face-first into his plate. Absurdity meets rationality brilliantly.
Four-year-old Hannah said: "I loved it when the White Rabbit went round and round like an acrobat. I liked walking around the gardens because I loved the theatre, seeing everything. I liked all of the puppets and all of the songs."
JON AND HANNAH LEWIS