Fringe Box



Review: Herald Players’ Alice In Looking-glass Land

Published on: 20 Jul, 2013
Updated on: 20 Jul, 2013

By Linda Schabedly

The Herald Players’ production of Alice in Looking-glass Land was, as far as I know, the first promenade production to take place in Guildford’s Castle Grounds.

The plot was adapted from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’ stories by Diane Maxfield, who also directed the production and played the Cheshire Cat and the Jabberwock.

Alice and the White Queen.

Alice and the White Queen.

Tanya Chainey played Alice Liddell, the grown-up Alice, who suddenly found she could once again climb through the mirror into ‘Looking-glass Land’, where she met the Cheshire Cat.

The Victorian bandstand is the obvious setting for the Hatter’s tea party, where Alice encountered the March Hare (Simon Dickinson), the sleepy Dormouse (Tabby Halliwell) and the Hatter (Andy Smith).

Poor Alice never got any tea, so she took the basket of eggs she was offered; these eggs looked just like Humpty-Dumpty. For an added dimension, the children in the audience had to answer a question to gain a Humpty-Dumpty body, so they could start putting him together again on their journey through ‘Looking-glass Land’.

Throughout this unusual and inspirational production, ‘Alice’ had the audience, young and old, eating out of her hand. Other comments I heard were: “ … Simply brilliant performance …”;  “… Wonderful use of Castle Grounds and amazing how you incorporated Guildford Castle into the story…”; “Such a great adventure, love to see Alice and company again …”. One little boy, when asked what he liked best, said: “The adventures!”

After storming away from the Hatter’s tea party, Alice led the audience through the Castle Grounds to the hidden ‘Alice garden’ where she found a looking-glass book. As she read Jabberwocky, the father and son appeared. The son fought the Jabberwock, which had been transformed from Tenniel’s dragon into a dragonfly with an eight-foot wingspan. The son galumphed away with the Jabberwock’s head, and Alice took the audience down the path to Castle Hill; walking past The Chestnuts, the house Lewis Carroll rented for his sisters.

Once in the Castle Grounds again, the audience was told to watch out for anyone wearing a crown and there, indeed, was the Red Queen (Jane Bryant). The contrast of the costumes, based on Tenniel’s drawings, with the wonderful summer planting of the formal gardens was stunning.

Tweedles and Alice.

Tweedles and Alice.

Alice then followed a fingerpost to the house of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Tabby Halliwell and Jane Bryant gave us a thoroughly entertaining pair of schoolboys who got chased off by the monstrous crow. Alice needed much encouragement from the audience to believe that the crow had flown away.

Once the Humpty-Dumpties had arms and legs, they were collected up and Alice was on her way to the eighth square, following more fingerposts.

Alice then found she had to take an examination set by the Red and White Queens before she could become a queen herself. Her last task was to choose a Humpty-Dumpty, which gave the child whose Humpty it was the opportunity to place Alice’s crown on her head.

At the rather riotous coronation party back at the bandstand, Alice gave the child a scroll as a memento. When ‘something’ began to happen, Alice ran back through the looking-glass, much to the dismay of the children in the audience, but the Cheshire Cat persuaded her to come back again to take her bow.

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