Alice in Wonderland – The Pantomime
Written by: Simon Leary and Gavin Rutherford
Directed by: Susan Wilson
Running at Circa Theatre until 22nd Dec 2019
Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson
Alice (the eternally energetic Natasha McAllister) is a smart, capable student who wouldn’t put a toe out of line. When her friend White Rabbit (the luminous Sarah Lineham) shows up hyped up on energy drinks and off to a party in Wonderland, Alice becomes curiouser and curiouser. Just where is this topsy-turvy Wonderland where animals pet humans and the Ps are silent?
Hoping for an audition with Alice’s uncle Peter Jackson, aspiring actress and hand model Dame Marjori (the best Dame yet from Gavin Rutherford) follows Alice down the rabbit hole.
In Wonderland, Alice and Marjori meet Mad Hatter (technically Mad Phatter, played by a delightfully loopy Simon Leary), Tweedle Dum (some sparky moments from Andrew Paterson) and Tweedle Dee (gorgeous vocals but a bit of a subdued performance from Susie Berry), and a host of other kooky characters. They’re all under the thumb of the fierce, sassy Queen of Hearts (standout performer Jonathan Morgan) and her beastly Jabberwock.
Of course, there’s singing and dancing galore (musical direction and arrangement by Michael Nicholas Williams, musical staging by Leigh Evans). While the whole cast is vocally proficient, the songs are set too low for a lot of the voices. This means there aren’t many moments for the singing to shine.
The Circa Theatre pantomime is an uproarious affair for adults and children alike. Topical, localised jokes keep the grownups cackling while the littlies enjoy action and interaction in spades (or in this case, hearts). A touching highlight of Alice in Wonderland – The Pantomime is when the youngsters are all called on stage to sing Love, Love, Love with Alice and the Dame, who by now is clad all in sequins. Yes queen.
With incredible costumes by Sheila Horton (Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee’s are knockouts), Lucas Neal’s vibrant set design, and Marcus McShane’s exciting lighting design, Alice in Wonderland – The Pantomime is an explosion of colour and joy that I’d happily see again.