Fringe Box



Stage Dragon: Alice in Wonderland – Guildford Shakespeare Company

Published on: 17 Oct, 2018
Updated on: 17 Oct, 2018

‘I beg your pardon, Alice?’ Quizzical looks at the Madhatter’s tea party

By Alice Fowler

When Guildford Castle is lit red on one side, with hearts on the other, it can only mean one thing – Alice in Wonderland is back in town. The Guildford Shakespeare Company’s superb production, last staged three years ago, makes inspired use of the historic buildings at Guildford’s heart.

Starting at the 12th century St Mary’s Church, with a welcome handshake from the Revd Charles Lutwidge Dodgson himself, audiences progress to the Museum and on to the Norman castle, for a tense encounter with the King and Queen of Hearts.

Who stole the tarts? The King and Queen of Hearts hold a trial to find out

This is immersive theatre at its best. Where else can you take tea with a Madhatter, banter with a White Rabbit or witness the shocked face of a pizza delivery driver, held up while a Playing Card crosses the road in front of him?

The excellent cast is working hard with four performances a night (the earliest at 5.30pm, working well with early bed times). The roles of Alice, the White Rabbit and the Madhatter are played by two actors apiece. I was lucky enough to see Amelia Annowska in the title role.

Trained at the Guildford School of Acting, Annowska is a delightful and
spirited Alice (while Lucy Pearson, who played Alice is in the previous production, is also not to be missed).

Curiouser and curiouser: Alice (Lucy Pearson) meets the Cheshire Cat.

Based on an original idea by co-founder Sarah Gobran, and directed by Charlotte Conquest, the GSC’s production brings the surreal aspects of Lewis Carroll’s story gloriously to life. A baby, clutched in the arms of the Duchess (Eli Murton, more often seen doing GSC’s front of house) transforms into a loudly snorting pig, while the White Rabbit’s trumpet serenade is managed with aplomb.

Lighting, sets and costumes all look even more impressive this time round, with Alice’s descent down the rabbit hole particularly effective. A minor quibble is the lighting of the Madhatter’s tea party. In 2015 this was a murky, green and purple affair which – in the atmospheric confines of the Museum – made taking tea with Hatter, Hare and Dormouse
an utterly magical experience. Now the room is brightly lit. The heavy hand of health and safety, perhaps? Whatever the reason, it is harder to lose oneself in the madcap action, this time.

Still, this is an unforgettable production while will thrill viewers of all ages. As one audience member was heard remarking as she left: ‘My face is aching from smiling for two hours’.

In three years the GSC will stage a brand new show, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Through the Looking Glass. This, the sequel to Wonderland, was completed in Guildford. There is plenty of time to enjoy the current show, which runs into November.

After that – roll on 2021.

The GSC’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ continues until November 3. See, Box Office 01483 304384

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