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Alice in Wonderland review at Derby Theatre – ‘an Alice for our times’

Abby Wain in Alice in Wonderland at Derby Theatre. Photo: Robert Day

Mike Kenny’s take on Alice in Wonderland is a revelation. It’s wholly original and truly inspired. School examinations day finds the stressed-out teenage Alice grappling with who she is and where she’s going:  “I want to be the size that fits,” she says in one of many flashes of self-knowledge. It is the Mad Hatter who reassures her she has no need to change herself, just change the door.

Staged on the revolve, with a great curving ramp and projections on a concave surround, this gloriously eccentric journey starts with Alice spinning downwards in a dramatic piece of aerial ballet. Colourful and versatile actor-musicians become everything from punk rockers to a ceilidh band. There’s a mad, adult-sized baby, a formidable and magnificently costumed Queen of Hearts, and some very clever ways to depict the growing, shrinking Alice. The choreography is droll and precise and the quirky Young Company of children deserves the highest praise.

Abby Wain, who hails from Derby, gives an outstanding performance as a questioning and exasperated Alice, wondering, “Am I just a hair-band, a dress? Am I just a cosmic blunder?” Unconventional, multi-layered and full of gentle wisdom, it is the best theatre of its kind.

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Verdict
An inventive and illuminating Alice for our times
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