Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, is undoubtedly one of the most famous children?s books of all time. So when Imperial Medics Drama announced that they were performing an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, it was certainly going to be a huge undertaking on their part. For the most part, this has been pulled off remarkably well.
The story of a girl following a rabbit into a weird and wonderful world of nursery rhyme characters, talking animals, talking flowers and even talking playing cards is one that demands a huge wilful suspension of disbelief from the audience. If the audience did not willingly accept that, then the whole tale would falter, as each new encounter seems stranger than the last. Thus it took a while to get comfortable with the play and its concepts as Seshi Manam, as an exceptional Alice, begins her adventure. However the ?unique? entrances and opening lines of two of the most famous characters from the book, The Cheshire Cat (Oliver O?Donovan) and then The White Rabbit (Tom Sterling) helps no end in this matter.
Throughout the play it is Alice that remains the continuous factor as the story meanders its way from one bizarre setting to another - almost, in fact, like different acts of a show following on from one another rather than related scenes from a play. But this is an attribute of the original book rather than any fault of the adaptation.
Notable performances from these ?acts? included the sadistic Duchess and her slave cook, played with disturbing enjoyment by Ginny Winstanley and Chris Kyndt, The Cannotentertainer (Andrew Al-Rais), simply for his accurate portrayal of nightclub bouncers all over the country, and the haughty Humpty Dumpty (Adam Hussein). However equal admiration has to go to whoever played the arms of the latter, as one hand action alone managed to earn as great a laugh as any one liner from the play.
This adaptation written by the director, David Bonsall, was almost a modernisation of the book, changing such locations as the Queen of Hearts? Croquet Ground to a nightclub and adding elements like the modern gas cooker to the house of the Duchess. Herein, however, lies my criticism. These two worlds, the modern and the traditional, sometimes felt disjointed when one came after another. The poetry reading by Tweedle Dee (Oli Smith) and Tweedle Dum (Lorne McEwan) in particular, though well done, seemed almost out of place.
On a more technical note, it was delightful to see the Union Concert Hall stage used to its full potential again, with trapdoors, flying scenery and revolving flats. Also used were a projector and two television monitors. These sometimes felt over employed or used in the wrong setting, especially the falling down a tunnel animation or when they noticeably went wrong.
Having said all this, it was a very enjoyable performance for the audience and, I believe, for the cast and crew. The comedy sustained itself throughout the performance in one liners and comic timing as they continued to produce the unexpected, like a drag Queen of Hearts (Richie Moss). However last word must go to the mushroom cartoon at the start of the second half - can someone please explain to me what on earth that was all about?
Friday 27th February is the last evening of performance with tickets at £7 for students and £8 for non students. Bookings can be made on http://www.fuggled.co.uk or tickets can be bought on the door.