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Creation Theatre Company - Alice

15th July to 19th August 2017

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Time ticks on for Alice

Plenty of audience participation in Creation Theatre's effervescent revival

Creation Theatre Company: Alice, at University Parks, Oxford, from July 15 to August 19

Of the many fantasy worlds inspired by the city and landscape of Oxford - Pullman's alternative Oxford, CS Lewis's Narnia, and Tolkien's Middle Earth - it's arguably Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass that have impacted most strongly on the city.

Creation Theatre Company's effervescent and accessible revival of Alice, which two years ago was produced promenade-style around the grounds of St Hugh's College, reunites the same team of writer and lyricist Kate Kerrow, director Helen Tennison, designer Ryan Dawson Laight and sound designer Matt Eaton, but this time playing in a jolly circus tent in front of a pond in the far end of the University Parks.

Although the production is not as immersive as before, the actors' willingness to leap into the audience and occasionally drag out volunteers, keeps the children in constant giggles. There's a strong emphasis on the passing of time and Alice's role in changing the time in Wonderland. Eaton's recurrent ticking sound effects form a soundtrack to the drama. Alice is on a quest to find and defeat The Beast, AKA the Jabberwocky, which, like in many fairy tales, is a symbolic creature representing the rite of passage into adulthood, a change already undertaken by Alice's older sister.

Ryan Duncan and Nicholas Ormond are a fine double-act, creating the quaint, music hall-like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee Jack-in-the-box men, mechanically manoeuvring for another comic boxing match. Ormond's Jabberwocky-hunting, damsel-saving knight on a hobby-horse is a particular delight. Stephanie Lane's comic, sinister Queen of Hearts is a dictator whose murderous inclinations always elicit a laugh, while her hookah-smoking psychedelic caterpillar is simply joyous. Finally, as the plucky Alice, Alicia Bennett, stepping into the role at the last minute, creates an instant rapport with the audience and subtly suggests a wide-eyed girl on the brink of change.

Hannah says: "My favourite character is Alice. She has a really cute little white bunny. It was really funny when she grew a long neck. I liked it that we didn't see the Jabberwocky because it was better that it would be a surprise."