EFR - Reviews of Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

Wed 31st July – Mon 26th August 2013

reviews

Costanza Bertoni

at 00:58 on 5th Aug 2013

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Falling down the rabbit hole; what would it feel like? Without the Disney frills or psychedelic costumes, what is the sense behind Lewis Carroll’s nonsense? OUDS theatre company this year at Edinburgh Fringe can show you, dragging you down into darkness with the white rabbit, ticket in hand, and clutching tightly onto the hem of your blue dress.

Disorientation, an intimately small room, Alice and 6 shape-shifting figures begin the show, and it gets curiouser and curiouser. Not only was there a constant, fluid transition between scenes and change of characters, but also a shift between reality and illusion, switching between Alice’s real world, and her own mind’s wonderland. A physical and intelligent adaptation, it explores the wonders of escapism; protecting Alice from the disappointments of her adult family, by providing her with an assortment of quirky, fantastical acquaintances.

Both Alice and the ensemble that accompanied her, physically created the atmosphere and setting of this imaginary world, in a completely unique and beautiful manner. From the impeccable characterisation of the wiggling ducks, and the nasal voice of the sleepy doormouse, the world was brought to life so vividly that in that small room, I almost forgot my own reality. A favourite moment was what I could assume to be a swimming scene, in which both the sound effects created by the loud huffing, and the pace that altered between above and below the water -underwater being muffled and slower- had a wonderfully cinematic effect. Additionally, the cast were all very strong, but particularly the sweet and yet crazed depiction of Alice by Phoebe Hames, who added layers to the character that I hadn’t previously thought of in her previous, written 2D form.

Another visual strength of this production was the simple, but bright costume and make-up designs. Clothed in white, and decorated with the occasional prop to highlight their characters, such as the Donnie Darko-esque ears of the hare and the white rabbit, neither the action nor the designs proved excessive or distracting. In fact, the common intertwining of the costumes with the progression of the play, such as the link between the trial of Alice’s father and the Knave of hearts, meant that the distinction between what was and wasn’t fantasy gradually became increasingly fleeting and hallucinatory.

If you are looking for an experience, a kaleidoscopic reel of absurdity, imagination and impossibility, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is beckoning you in. Look closely at your ticket, and you’ll find the label attached says “watch me”.

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Florence Strickland

at 09:01 on 5th Aug 2013

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After attention was drawn to the classic ‘Alice in Wonderland’ with Tim Burton’s twisted interpretation on screen (2010), it was pleasing to see OUDS’ (Oxford University Dramatic Society) version that adhered more to the original novel. Matt Parvin’s original script incorporated the hallucinatory nature of Alice’s travels in Wonderland with the domestic troubles in Alice’s home. This made the absurdities of Wonderland seem all the more fantastic. It also humanised a production that rewardingly sought out the audience’s involvement and interest.

The disorientation of the rabbit hole was summoned through the variety of live sound effects created by the cast – at one point inventively using a megaphone. Overall, the extent of the shouting and shrieking could perhaps have been toned down. The hammering home of the actors’ physicality was too laboured at times. Nevertheless, this use of sound and movement created a sense of the eeriness of the strange new world that Alice was about to enter. Members of the ensemble were reddened under the eyes, adding to this general tone.

The casting was a particularly excellent feature of this production. Johnny Purkiss demonstrated enormous versatility in his approach to all of his roles, and added poignancy as Alice’s troubled uncle. Richard Hill came to his performances with a charming flair and panache. Vanessa Goulding’s self-centered and sociopathic Queen of Hearts was thrilling. Her tone of voice and grasping gestures captured her character completely. There was no exaggeration - each movement was exact. It should be mentioned that all the cast were equal in talent which meant that the ensemble scenes hung brilliantly in the balance. The way that they used their sparse array of Ellen Bean’s carefully crafted costumes enhanced their roles all the more.

It was lovely to see children watching the play. Being performed in the round, the actors frequently engaged with the audience. Alice conspired with the children in the audience as she encountered curiouser and curiouser people, places and things. I think this also reassured them, when headstrong seven-year-old Alice was also scared at times. Despite all of the wild interpretations, we were reminded that, at its heart, this is still a children’s story. This type of staging also worked brilliantly with the Mad-Hatter’s tea party, where the characters are constantly changing places. Each side of the audience was able to witness the characters individually, again drawing them even closer into each scene.

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