REVIEW: Alice in Wonderland

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Ashleigh Dickinson heads up the cast as Alice in the Tread the Boards' Alice in Wonderland.

Alice In Wonderland, Attic Theatre, Stratford, runs until 3rd September

SIZE doesn’t matter, so they say. And that’s certainly the case at The Attic Theatre. What it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in ambition and imagination — both of which were oozing from Alice in Wonderland, the latest production by resident company, Tread the Boards.

For those who have never been to The Attic before, as I hadn’t, it really is an attic. There’s less than 100 seats and its difficult to say where the stage ends and the audience begins. Now I’m no theatre expert or critic of any real calibre, but I know that creative arts is about pushing the boundaries, standing your performance out from the rest, and making your audience ‘feel’ what they are watching.

Well, here you have no choice about the latter, such is the intimate nature of the theatre itself. And with Alice in Wonderland being a quirky story in itself, this quirky cast and quirky location seemed the perfect fit — it will be an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale like you have probably never seen before.

There is a cast of just seven and every expense is spared when it comes to the set, with the designers clearly making use of whatever they could find: umbrellas were jellyfish and gardening gloves were lobster claws, among the eclectic prop store. But the cast were just fantastic in making it all seem real, as real as Carroll’s make-believe world was, of course! — as they enthusiastically blustered their way through the two hours.

There was a cheeky Donald Trump reference for the adults, John-Robert Partridge, Jack Scott and Tread the Boards’ newcomer, Pete Meredith, were hilariously gracious as The Caterpillar, and Daniel Arbon’s and Eleanor Walker’s comic timing as Tweedledum and Tweedledee was perfect.

Jack Walker was truly energetic and full of stamina as The White Rabbit, Charlotte Allen shouting ‘pig’ at The Pig Baby rang in our ears for hours afterwards, and Ashleigh Dickinson held it all together as the quintessential little English girl on a big adventure. This was very funny from start to finish, although there was a panto feel to the second half because of Partridge’s Dame-like portrayal of The Queen of Hearts and some encouraged audience participation. Odd as it seemed for a literary classic, it did bode well for Tread the Boards’ seasonal show at the end of year — whatever it may be.