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Alice in Wonderland

by on 7 January 2022

Going For It 100%

Alice in Wonderland

by the PTC Writing Team from the story by Lewis Carroll

Putney Theatre Company at the Putney Arts Theatre until 8th January

Review by Denis Valentine

Alice in Wonderland is a newly written and produced play-musical by the Putney Theatre Company and offers an interesting, and at times innovate, take on the delivery of the classic story. 

With a big ensemble cast there are many strong performances which really bring to mind the classic elements and recognisable character traits that one might hope to see when going to Wonderland.  Frances James offers a very likeable Alice and hits all the right notes as our confused but strong-willed protagonist. 

A few others to mention are: Tim Iredale as a very game Mad Hatter, who offers a great, partly improvised piece, towards the end of the first act.  The audience is slightly caught cold by the sudden interactive element, but Iredale works hard and effectively to draw them quickly into their world and, with some very quick thinking, does well with what he’s given.  Abi Hunter as the Cheshire Cat gives firstly a great physical performance using strong movement skills to convey the character’s enigmatic charm and really gets the very most she can out of the mysterious character.  Cait Hart Dyke as The Queen of Hearts is also everything one might hope to see from this classic brutish character and genuinely commands the stage whenever her character is on it.  A well-worked game of onstage croquet is also very well coordinated and realised.  Sarah Perkins offers a good, contrasting performance in terms of character as the Duchess.  Stuart Watson as the somewhat trodden-on by his Queen, King of Hearts and as March Hare delivers both characters in strong fashion, with a fine comedic handling of both. 

It is great that the show is able to go on after being delayed from its original December run, but as a result may have missed the young, Christmas-enthused audience that it is more suited for.  The audience on the night was entirely made up of adults, which was a shame as younger, primary school aged children would have undoubtedly appreciated and enjoyed many of the proceedings and performances.  There is still of course much for an adult audience to enjoy and take away from the show. 

The innovations and attempts to use things such as a video screen and well-placed hands under tables to give the more fantastical Wonderland elements is highly commendable.  Familiar story beats like Alice’s shrinking and growing large are done well, with the use of an onstage video screen to give the necessary impressions, with the Cheshire Cat also at times using it to interrupt proceedings is an effective way to realise some of her character’s well-known elements. 

The musical elements of the play are all well realised and, although it is clear that some of the performers are more comfortable with these parts than others, everyone works gamely with what they are given and for the most part it all works. 

One of the biggest issues with the show and the way that it is structured in its writing, is there is a distinct lack of cohesion between each scene.  A lot of the time there is no natural transition from scene to scene which makes the story hard to follow (especially for anyone not familiar with previous versions) and little reason to why Alice finds herself at the next set of events. 

At certain moments Chris Cully’s White Rabbit appears at the end to whisk her off which at least gives a reason for the next transition.  It is a shame that this element is not used a bit more as not only would he serve as Alice’s guide through Wonderland but the audience’s as well.  Without him there is a definite lack of cohesive storytelling between each set piece, which does become jarring when viewing the show as a whole. 

As there is a varying level of experience and background from the performers, the differences in energy and poise on stage can at times also be seen.  Some of the players fully embrace their roles and give whichever character they are playing the right energy needed for the Wonderland vibe, whilst others, maybe due to things such as first night nerves, are more finding their footings on stage rather than fully embracing who they are playing.

The show on a whole and it’s players should all be commended for giving everything they do 100% and even if at times the innovations and set pieces don’t come off entirely it is always interesting and refreshing to see a production that fully goes for it and tries new challenging ways in delivering their story on stage. 

A fun and positive night of theatre to start off the year and let’s hope that companies and venues like The Putney Theatre Company will be able to get through the year as uninterrupted as possible. 

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Denis Valentine, January 2022

Photography courtesy of PTC

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