Beneath a fragmented proscenium arch, in the blaze of copper footlights, our heroine travels around America in search of her absentee mother. On the way she encounters a cornucopia of grotesque and wonderful women in a world where it is better to be thought dead than divorced. How times have changed, or so we think, for as each character comes and goes it becomes disturbingly apparent that in some ways we haven’t moved on at all.
Sarah Sigal’s play cleverly skates along the surface of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, nodding at music hall classics like “Burlington Bertie From Bow” and period icons wearing green carnations, all the while wearing its feminist aspirations clearly on its sleeve.
Sometimes these allusions are too acute, with the message feeling slightly heavy handed, but for the most part Sigal manages to fly in the face of perceived convention and makes feminism both funny and poignant. Because for all of the production’s unashamed girl power ethos, Alice’s adventures, whilst empowering, are above all hilarious.
Much of this is down to Sigal’s witty script, but she is helped by a cast that lift her words from the page and make them appear in marvellous Technicolor. Fluff Production founding members Emily North, Rebecca Dunn and Fiona Putnam display an exquisite level of mimicry, creating an ingenious motley crew of individuals for Alice to meet, whilst Ailsa Ilott, as the aforementioned young lady, is the solid centre of a swirling universe. She tethers the others down, allowing them to bounce off the walls and each other in a haze of surreal joviality. Despite playing perhaps the hardest part of all, Ilott is completely believable as this quietly powerful young girl, making her final frustrated monologue genuinely disquieting.
Jessica Beck’s imaginative production is joyful, raucous and like a mini powder keg of feminist fun. Exquisitely designed, beautifully underscored by Amelia Cavallo on piano and performed with an abundance of charm, this is a show that will leave you feeling both jubilant and slightly perturbed - just as though you had been on an adventure yourself.
- Honour Bayes