Alice in Wonderland – Northern Stage

Clara Darcy as the Cheshire Cat

Northern Stage’s version of Alice in Wonderland, bursts into the auditorium in a riot of colour and frantic activity, which rarely lets up for minute. Characters spill onto the stage in a two hour long extravaganza of music, madness and movement.
The ensemble are without question, a talented bunch. If they’re not playing a trumpet or a glockenspiel, they are sailing a pirate ship, dancing, singing, or bouncing around in high spirits as some surreal creature in an outrageous outfit. Their energy is formidable, and it needs to be, especially as this production is entirely in the round.

Falling down the rabbit hole

I loved Clara Darcy’s Cheshire cat and the the idea of creating it from umbrellas was just genius!
Micheal Blair and Andrew Bleakley were quite  hilarious as Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. They were the funniest by far, with their existential chat about whether you really exist if no one is thinking about you, and their half hearted determination to fight until six o’clock and then stop for tea.They both inexplicably had German accents, which made us chuckle, and Teletubbyesque propellers on their heads.

Tweedledum and Tweedle Dee

Alice Blundell was great as the White Queen – I’d like to have seen more of her – and Laura Riseborough had the best wig ever as the vicious head chopping Red Queen.

Chris Price is a great big presence on stage both as the Great Blanco (loved those seventies boots) the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter. He does larger than life with commensurate ease, and has a touch of a swash buckling Errol Flynn on uppers about him.

The Great Blanco!

I loved the costumes and the way all the space was used all of the time, the music was also very good and used cleverly. The dancers are also actors and add so much to the performance, interacting with the audience at every level.
The whole thing ends with a great big foam food fight, and it did give us a degree of amusement watching the children throwing the fake cakes back onto the stage, or in the case of the small girls sitting next to us, tidying them up carefully into a pile.

Off with his head!

Just a word of warning though if you are an Alice aficionado, which I confess I have been all my life, having played Alice as a child, adapted it, directed it, played the Red Queen, written original songs for it and seen innumerable versions of it (I really didn’t like the Time Burton one) – then you may not be entirely satisfied.
The show is really a performance inspired by Alice in Wonderland, with only some of the original lines and is more like a pantomime version of it, rather than sticking to the spirit of the books. The characters here are from both Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, incidentally.

The White Queen and Alice

Alice is now a sort of Catherine Cookson version of our heroine, wearing fingerless gloves, some very capacious trousers, and going on about going home to her mam for her tea, a lot. She is also inexplicably illiterate! I think most of the small children in the audience could have coped with ‘Eat Me’ and ‘Drink Me,’ so I don’t really know what that was about.
It was all perhaps all a little bit too frantic, without the moments of stillness that you need to draw the audinece into wanting to root for the main character. It had less in it for the adults watching, than say their wacky Wizard of Oz two years ago, which we loved.
It’s still great fun for kids, and an undoubted visual spectacle, and the staging and costumes are brilliant, but maybe just a case of trying to do too much all at once. Some simplicity may have benefited the show, balanced the relentless mayhem. Alice In Wonderland is on at Northern Stage until the 6th January Northern Stage – Alice in Wonderland

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Elaine Wilson has been writing blogs on travel, events and accommodation for over six years and is a digital content expert.