Outdoor Theatre in England? The sun shines on Heartbreak’s ‘Alice’

All jolly good fun!

Our English ‘heatwave’ continues apace. ‘Heatwave’ is of course a relative term employed by the media, largely to cause as much alarm as possible.  Anyone who has been to an actual hot country/continent, for example anywhere in Australia, Africa, South America, North America, the Middle East or India, will not recognise this description at all. Suffice to say it has been sunny for almost two weeks. The novelty of being able to dine alfresco, is still to wear off. We haven’t needed to put the heating on and have ventured out on a run of consecutive evenings without wearing a cardigan.

Who says caterpillars are are dying out?

Because of our notoriously unpredictable summers, outdoor theatre in England is generally the triumph of hope over experience, but on Friday night in Jesmond Dene in Newcastle, the great weather God smiled upon Heartbreak Production’s version of Lewis Caroll’s ‘Alice.’ It was a most beautiful summer evening as the small marquee and stage nestled among the beautiful mature trees of the park. It was warm, windless and the perfect setting for an evening of fun, laughter, Cava, strawberries and good cheer. Heartbreak Production’s ‘Alice’ is a  joyous rhyming up to date-ish version of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. The leading lady  is a rather precocious eleven year old, attached to her I pad and her mobile phone, and adept at being superior to everyone and not very nice to her brother and sister.
Heartbreak aims to tell stories that ‘inspire, entertain, challenge’ and this adaptation of Alice ticked all those boxes for me. The proof of the pudding is in the fact that the audience contained quite large number of small children who were entirely enthralled.

Life is a picnic!

Extraordinarily well behaved, they ate their crisps and pork pies without a rumpus and were keen to join in the performance as members of the jury in the court scene with the Red Queen. They gleefully waved small furry animals as Alice was condemned to be beheaded. Never have twelve good men and true been so jubilant as they sent an unfortunate to meet their maker!

Members of the jury ponder their verdict

All the cast were excellent. As a fellow thespian myself, I know that when there is a small cast all weaknesses are easily exposed so everyone needs to keep up the energy and the pace from the word go. Lily Carrie made a charming Alice, always the straight woman for the other characters, she had the right combination of bossiness and curiosity. Alex Moore was great fun and Rhian McLean was notably good at giving different accents to characters which always helps when sets are minimal.

Mad, moi?

I particularly liked Nathan Smith who was hilarious as the Mad Hatter with a hat made out of a Quality Street and a Roses tin, had a fine baritone and was funny before he even opened his mouth. This is physical theatre at its best and particularly enjoyed the Teedledum/Dee fight with the two terrible twins.

Combat moves

Using just a few rostra, colourful, rather home made looking props and some foam blocks the scenes were depicted with seamless quick changes which never held up the action.
As a lifelong Alice fan myself and having directed it, been in it and toured it in community venues, this was right up my street. There’s a lot of doom and gloom about at the moment but on that glorious sunny evening in the company of Heartbreak productions all was right with the world for a change. The company have  been coming to Newcastle for years but I never went because it was always raining. I won’t miss out again.
Heartbreak Productions are playing around the country now Heartbreak Productions