Alice in Wonderland has been adapted for
the stage and screen many times since its publication in 1865, including, of
course, the famous 1951 Disney animation. This legacy is a double-edged sword:
finding an audience for such a well-loved story is a relatively easy task, but
creating a show that is fresh and original can be a challenge.
Director Peter O’Rourke’s new production at Islington’s
Little Angel Theatre certainly succeeds in the originality stakes. Alice’s
adventure through the rabbit hole is told with flair and humour, writer Tim
Kane choosing carefully from the book’s original characters and scenes and
adding some new moments to make the story the company’s own.
Puppeteers Jonathan Storey, Mandy Travis, Michael
Fowkes and Seonaid Goody (who voices Alice) are a talented bunch, bringing
their wooden charges to life to create an eccentric cast of characters, some
familiar, some unexpected. Ben Glasstone’s score includes some catchy numbers
that move the story along, musical-theatre style, as well as some very
effective underscoring that does much to give this sparsely-designed production dramatic atmosphere.
There are many enjoyable moments in this show and the team
make some interesting explorations into issues of identity and belonging, but
Alice has an abstractness about it that unfortunately pulls
focus from the production’s other achievements. The story’s dreamlike,
psychedelic qualities must, of course, be included in any adaptation in order
to maintain the feel of Lewis Carrol’s original work, but go too far along this
road, as O’Rourke and his team have done, and you have a show that feels like
it could take off and fly away.