NODA Review – Alice In Wonderland

NODA review by DeeDee Doke

Alice in Wonderland – Young Nomads – July 2019

What is more frightening than a queen consumed with chopping heads

off for the most minor infractions? Little else, most would probably say –

Unless it’s am obsessive-compulsive Mad Hatter addicted to tea or a

frazzled, anxiety-riddled White Rabbit who can’t seem to get anywhere

on time. More nightmare than dream, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in

Wonderland has more than its share of alarming characters, these three

included, which gave the Young Nomads plenty of dramatic and comedic

fodder to play with in their July production.

Directed and choreographed by Fiona Maguire and Lauren Hobbs, this

three-act Alice in Wonderland was a psychedelic, surreal fantasia, set

against some magical scenic painting that took audiences right to

Wonderland’s forests and waters. The production incorporated original

music by Joseph Hall, imaginative lighting effects and costumes that

looked as though they popped right out of a storybook.

Playing Alice were three performers — Alice Cournane (Act 1), Elsie

Palmer (Act 2), and Faye Dower (Act 3) – which helped demonstrate the

different facets of confusion, then curious and then resoluteness that the

girl experiences during her adventure down the Rabbit Hole. Each

successive girl was physically bigger than the one previous; was this to

show the growth of Alice’s bravery or strength or was it coincidence?

Whichever, it worked well as a means of illustrating her development

and maturing throughout her ordeal.

Truly frightening was the very shrill, red-headed Queen of Hearts (Ailish

Collins) who ruled Wonderland with her menacing whims and her

smirking Executioners (Lisa Distill and Emily Jackson). The Duchess

(Laurel Beach), the White Rabbit’s boss, was also one to be feared, but

less so than the Queen, as a disdainful, self-absorbed Helena Bonham

Carter look-alike. The Mad Hatter, in a frenetic, larger-than-life

performance by Thomas Wilson, exemplified the madness in the air in

Wonderland, living up to his moniker with his wild eyes, manic

utterances and can’t-stand-still jitteriness.

Favourite scenes? A water-bound Act I scene set to a psychedelic, watery

soundscape in which Alice is caught in the Pool of Tears with an

unhelpful Mouse (Mia Barnes) and Adventure 8, Act 2, in which Alice

meets the tears-prone Mock Turtle (Anneka McFarland) and a caustic

Gryphon (Ella Briggs).Other colourful characters met along the way include the White Rabbit

(Joseph Wall), the Caterpillar (Rose Ssemakula) Cheshire Cat (Charlie

Wilson), the March Hare (Phoebe Spurgeon), the Dormouse (Cassie

Byford), Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Abbie Good, Ruby Massuard),

Humpty Dumpty (Grace Brighty), and the King of Hearts (Thomas

Wishart), who seems to be the only Wonderland resident with any sense.

There are also a Red Queen (Emily Jackson) who likes to run, and a

mystical White Queen (Lucy Young) caught up between past and future.

A little under 90 minutes long, including interval, Alice in Wonderland

took time to get into full gear, with pacing in the first act generally

sluggish and too thoughtful. In the second and third acts, the

momentum built, along with the energy and quicker cue pick-ups.

At the beginning of the show, the music, which I think was live, was too

loud, overwhelming the voices of the performers, and the otherwise fun

Pool of Tears scene, the volume on the sound effects made it difficult to

hear the conversation of Alice and the Mouse. The sound balance did

subsequently improve, however.

This was an ambitious production, with high staging and technical

demands, not to mention characterisation challenges for the young

performers, which the Young Nomads company mostly met. Audience

and cast alike clearly enjoyed their adventures down the Rabbit Hole on

a hot summer night.