Mon 18th – Thu 21st August 2014


Tania Nicole Clarke

at 00:59 on 19th Aug 2014



Candy Cigarettes is an experimental new piece of devised theatre exploring the traditional tale of Alice in Wonderland. But I wouldn’t turn up expecting a delightful retelling of the charming children’s story; the performance quite frankly destroys any purity that can be found in the magical tale that we all know and love. There are no white rabbits, talking caterpillars or singing flowers to be found, instead we are provided with messed-up childhood memories, horrific LSD trips and domestic abuse. The performance is an intense fifty minutes of harrowing mayhem.

Deep down, below the façade of sweetness and light, we all recognise Alice in Wonderland as a mesmerising, kaleidoscopic world. It certainly lends itself all too well to drug culture and time trips, but attempting to theatrically stage this weird and wacky hysteria is a mammoth challenge. The performance is a multi-sensory experience; it provokes all kinds of emotions, and takes us on a strangely uncomfortable journey.

The devised piece is a two-hander performed by Carly Lindon-Forrester and Georgia Tillery who share between them the role of Alice as well as undertaking other characters. As we enter the studio we are given stripped pockets of pic ’n’ mix handed to us from a carrier bag, and the two characters, both wearing huge plastic rat heads and pastel coloured tea dresses wander around as if lost in the venue’s foyer.

On the front row of the audience sits a video camera, but it is never made explicitly clear what this is for until the end of the performance when Alice asks a timid audience member if they may have their memory catcher back. This ending is incredibly confusing and incongruent with the rest of the performance because as a framing device it isn’t properly executed, which is a shame. On reflection, the episodic nature of the piece leads me to believe that the fragmented scenarios we witness are all individual snippets of memories taken from the video camera. Holistically the performance makes very little sense at all, but I’m really not sure it even intended to.

Throughout the piece Lindon-Forrester and Tillery flit sharply between various characters, always returning to the main innocent, child-like double of Alice. This could be much more effective if the lighting states clearly followed the changes in characterisation. Sometimes this is done well, but sometimes it doesn't correlate directly with the acting, and so we struggle to fully engage with these sudden switches in character.

Both Lindon-Forster and Tillery are skilled performers, there’s no doubt about that. Both give strong performances, mainly held together by the synchrony of their movements and the strength of their overall physicalistion. Carly Lindon-Forrester should be praised for her outstanding multirole play ability, her main strength being her vocal diversity as she executes a number of different accents to suit various characters.

Something that works particularly well is the harsh juxtaposition of these two females, who appear prim and proper in their tea dresses but suddenly metamorphose to embody disgustingly laddish male yobs gripping their crotches, grunting and jeering. Candy Cigarettes is deserving of an audience because of its attempt at experimenting with both theatrical genre and its twisted inversion of Wonderland.


Molly Brown

at 09:39 on 19th Aug 2014



Candy Cigarettes comprised a series of short snapshots which in compilation gradually created a broader picture of human memory, and the nature of experience. At least I think that was the intention.

Over the course of the performance the pair of female actors, one in pink, one in yellow, assumed the skin of an eclectic range of characters: two young sisters; pretty women; an old lady neglected in a care home; small boys playing with guns; anxious teenage girls; aggressive male youths; a father and son.

Initially it seemed as though two young sisters would serve as the continuous thread throughout the show. They started by fighting and soon began playing a ‘pretend’ game in which they switched with uncanny speed into the figures of an abusive father with his son, or a pair of rich, shallow women. As the play progressed, however, searching for any form of narrative consistency became impossible, and the short scenes were seemingly random. The only recurring motif was the existence of candy cigarettes – a staple of any sweet shop, but occasionally superfluous to these short sketches.

The scenes themselves were generally high quality and occasionally moving. A fraught mother ignores, then disowns, her aggravating toddler – Georgia Tillery’s uncanny childlikeness allowed for a terrible vision of an overgrown baby, while Carly Lindon-Forrester, inhabited the role to the point of just being a fractious mother. Indeed Lindon-Forrester displayed extraordinary dexterity in characterisation throughout, both in voice and physicality – one to watch.

Occasional halts saw the two actors writhe within their own skin accompanied by surreal electronic music. The descent down the rabbit hole? Or representative of the exploration of memory? The symbolism was unclear, and the trigger for such sections seemingly random, but the production succeeded in navigating the thin line between the descent into laughter-provoking awkwardness, and captivating and enthralling an audience. Such moments of more physical theatre often go horribly wrong, but the actors kept us onside throughout.

Aside from occasional anachronisms in the language of the characters, particularly the children, the devised script of the short interchanges worked well. What the play lacked, however, was a clearer sense of cohesion, some kind of purpose or end point. Without the aid of the flyer, for example, I wouldn’t have known that I’d ‘indulged’ in ‘a multi-sensory experience inspired by Alice in Wonderland’. Occasionally characters were named as Alice, but this was neither systematic, nor applied exclusively to one actor. In fact, the only point at which I wondered whether we were approaching wonderland was when an old woman drank tea from a tiny cup and saucer.

The only other clue to the content of the performance provided by the flyer was two elegant rats head masks, but aside from one moment, when the two actors, with rats' heads framed in the doorway to the theatre, holding hands at the very beginning of the show, no rats were featured in the production. Under normal circumstances I tend to ignore flyers and advertising material, to allow myself to fully immerse myself in the theatre. Here, though, I left the show slightly bemused.

If the point was to have no point, and to show the randomness of memory, life and experience, then this play is resoundingly successful. If not, and you happen to be on the mile at 7.10pm then do pop in. They even give you sweets.


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