Alice (Chester – St Mary's Centre)

Enthralling adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic, here given a fresh makeover that really works.

© Neil Kendall

Never mind There's Something About Mary, it's Alice who has kept us all entranced for so long now. But such a familiar story, what on earth can be done to produce something original? Well, this show comes up with the goodies in spades, as it were.

Set in the round gives it the cosy atmosphere of campfire tales, though at times, you're a bit too close to the action. And the second half seems almost cursory, a bit tacked on (less Looking Glass than handbag mirror) but overall, it is enthralling.

There's plenty to make you think; combining the two stories with Carroll and Alice's encounters heightens the contrast between reality and vivid imagination, with a dash of poignance because of the inevitability of passing time, because things always change.

Nothing can be faulted: beautiful costumes, enchanting songs, clever dialogue and use of props – some of the latter as cunning as anything Carroll could have devised, All enhanced by a marvellous cast, professionals and amateur alike.

The cameraderie between writer and reader is a pleasure to see; both Alice (Anne O'Riordan) and Carroll (Duncan MacInnes) are delightful, the latter equally so in his other roles, eg The White Rabbit.

As is the exuberance of the children, and the multi-talented, multi-tasking characters; musicians and actors: Sophia Hatfield, from dozy dormouse to strident Queen of Hearts; Andrew Roberts-Palmer, particularly as the Cook; Ben Tolley, a barmy Duchess; David Edwards, heroic White Knight and villainous Knave and incredible Cheshire Cat.

A fantastic festive feast to make your Christmas extra special; absolutely not to be missed.

Alice is at St Mary's Centre, Chester until 10 January.