In 1862, boating to Nuneham with the Liddell sisters, The Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson extemporized a fairy tale for his young listeners. It concerned Alice’s adventures underground and might never have been published were it not for the exhortations of Alice Liddell that the teller commit the tale to paper.
Published in 1865 as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland under Dodgson’s pen name, Lewis Carroll, the tale of the young girl who falls down a rabbit hole has enjoyed countless retellings in animated and live action film, plays, operas, ballets and even video games, with varying degrees of success.
Admirers of Carroll’s classic tale, practically anyone who was read to as a child, will have a strong sense of what an adaptation of the work should include and how much license a director might employ. Fortunately fans will not be disappointed by Harvest Rain’s latest production of Alice, directed and written by Tim O’Connor.
O’Connor obviously has a lot of love for the tales and it shows. From his young ensemble cast (most taking on multiple roles) he elicits engaging, energetic performances.
In adapting the Alice tales for the stage, a labour of love taking nearly two years to complete, O’Connor has stayed true to Carroll’s wonderful nonsensical vision. The script is fast-paced and covers as much ground as possible in just under two hours, without neglecting to include any of the major characters and incidents.
Talented designer Josh McIntosh, works his magic on Alice with a sparse, yet effective set evoking those memorable Carrollian landmarks, chessboards and doors.
The costumes (also designed by McIntosh) are colourful and outrageous and although I’m not certain Lewis Caroll would have approved the use of purple lamé they elicited gasps of wonder and delight from the audience. The outlandish realization of the Caterpillar (complete with oversized mushroom) is something that must be seen to be believed.
Naomi Price is excellent as Alice, Carroll’s sensible heroine who finds herself an unwilling traveler in a land of nonsense. The beloved White Rabbit and Cheshire Cat are ingeniously constructed puppets given voice and movement by Jason Chatfield and Jess Loudon.
The highlight of show is without doubt the mad hatter’s tea party. As the Mad Hatter and March Hare, Cameron Hay and Emily Gilmore are utterly hilarious, bouncing off one other with split-second comic timing that had the first-night audience in hysterics.
That childhood terror with biting jaws and catching claws, the Jabberwocky has not been forgotten and the program wisely advises parents that younger viewers may find the accompanying sound effects frightening. Sad to say they had me clutching at my husband’s arm in the dark.
Alice is compulsory viewing for both the young and the young at heart. Fans can rest easy knowing their beloved tale is in safe hands and hopefully this colourful production will lure new readers down the rabbit hole…
Harvest Rain Theatre Company presents
Sydney Street Theatre | 166 Sydney Street, New Farm
8 - 30 June
Wed - Sat @ 7.30pm / Sat @ 2pm; Matinee: Sat 16, 23 & 30 June @ 2pm
Adults $30 / Conc $25 / Child $18