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Alice in Wonderland review at Gardens of Quex Park Birchington

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It’s quite a challenge to find something fresh to do with this familiar old chestnut and to make good theatre from its episodic structure but Philip Dart has managed it with his trademark versatile cast of four. His Alice – and it’s a neat conceit – is set in a Victorian fairground and, when I saw it, complete with unrehearsed peacock shrieks, warm evening sunshine and the all-round light which characterises Kent’s Isle of Thanet.

Christina Chong is a perfect Alice in her blue dress, white pinny and striped stockings. And her clarity of diction and range of expressions expertly catches the character’s strange combination of naivety and wisdom.

The other three cast members play everything else. Among many other roles, Michael Duncan makes a splendid dead pan job of the Queen of Hearts dressed like Queen Victoria in her mourning and of the disdainful caterpillar. Richard Earl’s Duchess and Mad Hatter are so clearly defined – like his Mock Turtle and Knave – that few children in the audience would have noticed that it was the same actor.

Nicholas Earnshaw is a real joy to watch and listen to. His anxious white rabbit, dozy dormouse, beaming Cheshire cat face and, best of all, his Brummy footman show outstanding showmanship. And his ventriloquism with the hedgehogs is a miniature tour de force. Julian Ronnie’s music is strength too and the lobster quadrille is a great fun thanks to movement directed by Lia Prentaki.

This show is slick and very funny. The cast squeezes every ounce of humour out of Carroll’s familiar jokes which suddenly seem new. Take a picnic, some children, some warm clothes – and enjoy it.

Production Information

Gardens of Quex Park, Birchington, Dates: 30 June – August 6 then and touring

Author
Lewis Carroll, adapted by Philip Dart
Director
Philip Dart
Cast
Christina Chong, Michael Duncan, Richard Earl, Nicholas Earnshaw
Running time
1 hour 45 mins

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