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Alice in Wonderland review at Northern Stage, Newcastle – ‘exhilarating’

Clara Darcy as the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland at Northern Stage. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography Clara Darcy as the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland at Northern Stage. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

Northern Stage’s Alice in Wonderland reunites the creative team behind last year’s James and the Giant Peach, and the overall result is similar: an epic theatrical juggernaut, infused with a frantic and relentless creative energy.

Theresa Heskins’ pacy adaptation is a loose conflation of both of the Alice books, which recasts the heroine as a streetwise card sharp who plummets down a trap door whilst in pursuit of a conjuror who has swindled her.

Alice’s adventures unfold on Rhys Jarman’s giant cabaret-style set, powered along by Jeremy Bradfield’s infectious jazz/rock/electronica soundtrack, which is performed live by the versatile ensemble.

Director Mark Calvert barely allows the action let up for a second; his production is in perpetual motion. When the cast aren’t singing, playing or dancing, they are dashing off to far-flung part of the vast auditorium or hurtling around on luggage trollies. The effect is mostly exhilarating but it does sometimes make the story hard to follow.

The performers do a great job of fulfilling the multiple demands placed on them. Laura Riseborough is deliciously evil as the Red Queen, but best of all is Clara Darcy who is chilling as the Cheshire Cat and wonderfully unhinged as the March Hare.

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Frantically paced and inventive reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s wonderland