Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Alice in Wonderland - No 2 (Belconnen Community Centre)

Alice in Wonderland, adapted by Jason Pizzarello from the story by Lewis Carroll, with additional material from Alice Through the Looking Glass, and original music and songs by Peter Best.

Ickle Pickle Productions at Belconnen Theatre, Canberra, January 12 – 20, 2018.

Director – Jordan Best; Choreography – Talisha Jackson; Set Design and Scenic Art –
Steven Galinec; Costume Design – Fiona Leach; Makeup Design – Janette Humphrey; Graphic Design – Jenny Watson; Sound Design – Jordan Best; Original Design Concept – Wayne Shepherd

Alice – Sarah O’Neil; Alice #2 – Emily O’Brien; White Rabbit – Jade Breen;
Mad Hatter – Jim Adamik; Cheshire Cat – Nicole Carr; March Hare – Oliver Johnstone; Dormouse – William Best;
TweedleDee – Brenton Cleaves; TweedleDum – Kay Liddiard; Queen of Hearts – Alex MacPherson; King of Hearts – Janie Lawson; Duchess – Shaylie Maskell;
Two of Hearts – Jack Morton; Five of Hearts – Joss Kent; Seven of Hearts – Callum Doherty; Knave of Hearts – Joe Moores;
Cook / Mock Turtle – Eryn Marshall; Caterpillar – Caitlin Simkin; Humpty Dumpty – Lucy O’Sullivan;
Old Squirrel – Jim Tweddle; General – Bailey Lutton; Fish Footman – Jacinta Rush; Frog Footman – Bianca Lawson; Flower (Rose) – Kellee-Rose Hand; Flower (Tiger Lily) – Zoe Lee-Archer; Executioner – Aron Tweddle.

Ensemble: Aimee Halley, Alysandra Grant, Annabelle Ferrington, Ella Colquhoun, Sabine Zen, Layla Wilson, Victoria Hunt, Reba Nelson, Erica Karlstrom.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
January 16

Jordan Best’s Alice is definitively aged 10 years and 9 months.  Humpty Dumpty tells her “I should have stayed at 10.  But it’s too late now.”  And promptly falls off the wall, “never to be put back together again”.  Alice notes that the line is too long for the poem.  Like so much of her experience down the rabbit hole, it doesn’t fit.

Before the age of 10 she lived in a na├»ve kind of wonderland, thoroughly engrossed in reading storybooks; now she lives in a new growing-up land making her wonder about all sorts of things, from how we know who we are, how we know what’s true, to how we know what’s right. 

Best splits her Alice into two: the one in her dream keeps chasing but can never catch up with the one who fell asleep in the real world.  But they meet in the court of justice, and sing with the whole cast in the finale of a world where we all live together.  All put back together again, as a family, in a fitting song, I Wonder, by Jordan’s father, film composer Peter Best (Crocodile Dundee and Muriel’s Wedding) while her husband, Jim Adamik, perhaps ironically, makes a wonderful Mad Hatter  – and not forgetting their son, William, always asleep as the Dormouse.

This is genuine community theatre, in the Belconnen Community Centre, for our local audience of young families and the occasional oldie like me.  It doesn’t matter that not all the performers have polished technical skills – what’s essential is their commitment, enthusiasm, and appreciation of the purpose in putting on such a meaningful play.  In fact, though, the younger players matched those of greater acting years and experience very well, while Talisha Jackson’s choreography kept the show moving – with, I thought, a special highlight being the dance/movement work by Nicole Carr as the Cheshire Cat.

The sound design – also by Jordan Best – used a mix of recorded background music (between the music for the songs) which oddly worked – taking us back in time to early 20th Century ragtime, and particularly to the song Ain’t She Sweet? (composed by Milton Ager, lyrics by Jack Yellen, 1927).  Perhaps the question in mind was how sweet is Alice, at least in her dream form, when she refuses to accept the Queen of Hearts’ autocratic idea of justice?

The set design also worked very well, especially considering the limitations of this theatre, allowing for much rapid movement on and off stage for such a large cast and ensemble, with a simple device of roll-on flats for scene changes, keeping the show literally rolling along.  And lighting was nicely done, with changing colour spots making the move from the real to the dream and back again – again a simple device, but all that was needed.

Overall, then, this Alice in Wonderland is a highly satisfying piece of community theatre, with significance beyond the merely local: more than mere entertainment, and certainly an enjoyable evening.  Different, of course, from this week’s commercial Alice in Wonderland No 1 touring at the Canberra Theatre Centre (reviewed here January 14), but in some ways more fitting.