Open-air theatre practitioners must be wondering, even more than the rest of us, what on earth has happened to the climate. It's the night after Midsummer Night and the prospect of a magical evening in the company of Alice as she journeys through Wonderland and the Looking-Glass could not be more inviting. Unless it wasn't blowing a gale in temperatures more suited to a refrigerator.
To their endless credit, the team at Heartbreak Productions always go on, whatever the weather. They make the courteous gesture of acknowledging that the audience do too.
And whatever the elements may throw at the four-actor cast of Alice – An Extraordinary Adventure, they also generate and maintain that essential ingredient of magic in the way the story plays out.
Writer Dani Carbery places Lewis Carroll's original characters in a modern setting – Alice's eleventh birthday, which she spends playing on her new iPad, much to the irritation of her younger brother and sister. But when a new hypnosis app sucks her into a weird and wonderful sleep, Alice's adventures take on a very recognisable form, with well-known and much-loved characters making highly entertaining appearances.
The White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledum and Tweedledee and a baby that turns into a pig – they're all here and all as crazy as Carroll first invented them. Indeed, one of the delights of the evening is the ability of cast members Rhian McLean, Alex Moore and Nathan Smith to conjure this huge range of characters so convincingly from a few props and odd bits of wardrobe. Lily Carrie's Alice – the only one not to play a multitude of parts – wanders wide-eyed through this assortment of bizarre creations, taking the enchanted audience willingly with her as she tries to find her way home.
Director Peter Mimmack and designer Kate Wragg use their limited resources intelligently, including interactive elements, fun and games to keep younger eyes and ears constantly engaged.
And in the end, the indomitable British spirit allows the weather to be turned to advantage as everyone – cast, crew and audience – shares the thrill of having triumphed over adversity to enjoy a thoroughly heartwarming theatrical experience.
Heartbreak Productions are also touring Romeo and Juliet and Dracula this summer. See the website www.heartbreakproductions.co.uk for details.
- Michael Davies