It’s that time of the year again. Christmas cheer has spilled over into the theatres, bringing with it a schedule of panto’s and seasonal shows to get you in the mood for the ‘most wonderful time of the year’.
Bolton Octagon’s festive offering serves up a big slice of the Lewis Carroll classic Alice in Wonderland adapted by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and directed by Elizabeth Newman.
Now if you’re going along expecting to see an Alice dressed in a pale blue dress with long blonde hair held back by a white ‘Alice’ band then you might be surprised at what this new production delivers. With a 21st century twist the action begins with a classroom full of children all vying for the chance to take home the school pet – the white rabbit – for the half term holiday. Adult actors play the young pupils along with an array of roles, as shy schoolgirl Alice follows the rabbit when it escapes and ventures into the surreal world of Wonderland.
Writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm provides a constant nod to the ‘trippy’ undertones of Carroll’s tale treating us to talking flower heads, a caterpillar that rides around on a Chopper and the campest March Hare I’ve ever seen! There’s a plethora of Matilda-esq songs, which are both clever and catchy, but where the production really excels is through its big characters, expertly played by a cast of 7 energetic, talented and versatile performers.
A special mention must go to Russell Morton and Jack Quarton who are a joy to watch as ‘larger than life’ break-dancing rappers Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Dressed in matching trackies and high tops the pair manoeuvre in the Octagon’s round, busting their moves and providing a punchy opening to the second half.
The glue that holds it all together comes in the form of Sarah Vezmar as Alice who strikes up a friendship with the audience and captures their hearts from beginning to end. There’s a childlike innocence in Vezmar’s portrayal and she helps deliver the important moral that ‘you are whoever you want to be’.
With Alice in Wonderland Newman throws convention out of the window and creates a clever piece of theatre – it’s a risk and although this new production sometimes appears madder than the Mad Hatter, it surprisingly works.
Granted this thinking person’s panto might not be everyone’s cup of tea and there were a few blank faces as the production got ‘curiouser’ and ‘curiouser’ but by the end the audience had a smile on their faces as big as the Cheshire Cat.
Would I go down the rabbit hole again? Oh yes, try stopping me!
Alice in Wonderland will be at the Octagon from Friday 14 November 2014 – Saturday 10 January 2015.
There are morning, afternoon and evening performances – find out more from the Octagon Box Office on 01204 520661, or online at www.octagonbolton.co.uk/Alice. Suitable for ages five years and over.