Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass are so loved by so many, that any theatrical adaptation inevitably comes with a set of expectations.
Kudos then, to Ipswich-based company Red Rose Chain and to prolific writer-director Joanna Carrick, whose festive family show manages to strike a neat balance between faithfulness to the novels and flirtation with more playful, more pantomime-y stuff, all using a cast of just three.
The whole thing plays out in Alice’s bedroom, and the clever conceit is that the objects surrounding her – toys, dolls, a chess set, etc – find their way into her fever dreams.
It’s not all here, but a lot of it is: the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, the Queen Of Hearts’ croquet game, Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee, Humpty Dumpty, the Jabberwocky, the White Knight, and more. And, pleasingly, a lot of Carroll’s writing remains in Carrick’s script and songs.
The episodic narrative is spun out by Leonie Spilsbury, Lawrence Russell and Darren Latham, all clad in black and white like chefs at Pizza Express, then donning a variety of jackets and hats to flip between characters. All three are good, embracing an intentionally roughshod aesthetic and engaging with the young audience easily throughout – there’s a particularly good Nina Conti-esque bit. Spilsbury is particularly good, with a polite, slightly dotty air to her Alice. A perfectly pitched production.