Alice in Wonderland by Ella Higgins

I still can’t help but smile whenever I think about the dormouse falling asleep, mid-conversation with Alice. Anthony Neilson’s classic take on the original story of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is delightfully cheerful and a perfect show for all the family. It sticks very closely to the plot of Carroll’s book, but at the same time has its own little unique twists, like singing, dancing and enough puns to get everyone laughing.

The story follows Alice (who is portrayed in a fun and quirky manner by Jess Peet) and her adventures prior to her tumble down the rabbit hole. She meets comical and interesting characters, all of which have their own creative twist, and that in turn makes them unique and sets them apart from both the original characters and from other portrayals of Carroll’s creations.

I was somewhat worried that I’d find the performance a bit on the childish side, being as I made the assumption that it was aimed specifically at families and younger children, but me and my friend – both in our mid-teens – agreed that we enjoyed it just as much as we would’ve at any other age. It was certainly aimed at a younger age group, but we still enjoyed the show in it’s entirety. It was made sure that every part of the performance would be understood and enjoyed by both adults and children alike. Many of the jokes drew immediate laughter out of the adults and more mature audience members, but for the children who didn’t catch on, Alice would step in and translate it into a more understandable manner. In my opinion, Alice acted as the glue who held the storyline together and moved it along. The supporting characters were the main points of focus, and they needed Alice to link them to each other.

I can’t tell you who my favourite character was. I adored each and every one of them in different ways for their different quirks. One of my thoughts about the characters overall was that I felt that Neilson made sure to not take any influence from other interpretations of Carroll’s characters, and that they were all re-imagined from Neilson’s own visualisations, and his alone. This thought stood out to me when the Mad Hatter was introduced. I, like many others, envisioned him to be pale faced, painted, and delicately mad, with a large purple top hat – all of these features being plucked from films and pictures created by stylistic artists such as Tim Burton, who envisioned the Mad Hatter to be a creature of finesse and precision in his madness. However, I was most surprised to be greeted with a more plainly coloured, scruffier man with a much smaller hat. This initially surprised me, and I felt slightly disappointed with the lack of finesse, but upon reflection I realised that this new take on the ageing, stereotypical version of the Mad Hatter was incredibly refreshing. The new Hatter was different in a way which left him still very recognisable as the Mad Hatter, but with many twists which made him memorable and enjoyable. I grew to love the way both him and his personality threw themselves all over the stage in a sense of abandon which seems surprisingly alien to his character, but at the same time fitted it so well. I smiled every time he opened his mouth.

I could talk so much about all of the characters in just as much detail as i have done with the Mad Hatter, but I feel it is something to be experienced, rather than just be skimmed over. It was a highly enjoyable performance and I will be recommending it to others, especially to those of a younger age group.

Ella Higgins