Descending into the madness of the world of Lewis Carroll and the tales of Alice and the White Rabbit, I took a trip to the Tron Theatre to witness the Irish adaptation from the creative team that brought you Shackleton and The Third Policeman. The Blue Raincoat Theatre have adapted and produced a whirlwind rendition of the timeless classic with sumptuous visuals to avoid you looking at your watch (like the white rabbit). With beguiling portrayals of the key characters with much of an Irishness to them, this production throws you into the midst of madness for the hour and a half or so that you are sat in the theatre.
Blue Raincoat, one of Ireland’s most celebrated theatre companies, and the only full-time ensemble in the country makes a wonderful return to the Tron this week with this pacey stage adapation of Alice in Wonderland, marking the Irish company’s eighth year performing at the Scottish venues. Originally adapted for the stage back in 1998, the company re-presented a new production from the original script as part of their 25-year anniversary celebrations in 2016 and three years later we have eventually got to see their adaptation, which has some strong elements.
Firstly, the fact that they have two actresses playing Alice, one interpretation of Alice within her dream state and the other as she is, is a wonderful opportunity to descend further into Carroll’s world of madness, often making it confusing as to which Alice to follow. Particularly as one of the Alice’s also plays the narrator, dormouse and the mock turtle. However, it is not too confusing and just adds a psychedelic twist to the story. And Miriam Needham as Young Alice and Hilary Bowen-Walsh as Older Alice work stunningly, as they throw themselves literally into the roles. The supporting cast, John Carty, Sandra O’Malley, Brian Devaney and Sean Elliot were much of a muchness in their animated and OTT roles, with John Carty as the Cheshire Cat and Sean Elliot as the Red Queen being remarkably splendid.
Niall Henry’s direction is spot on with this production, all cast members a joy to inhale. Paul McDonnell’s set design is minimal but conveys the story rather well, depending on much of our imaginations, and world of Alice, as we know it. But to effectively convey the world in which Alice gets larger and smaller by near impossible measures, is no easy task and the simple replacement of various tables of different sizes certainly sets in stone the narrative and we really do need nothing more. We get more than a glimpse into this world through the wonderful performances by the cast and it’s actually rather refreshing to see the set kept to a minimum. It would be too easy to over-indulge with a production such as this.
A stunningly-adapted tale with a brilliant cast performing the lively characters, this well-loved classic has been invigorated and brought to life.
Photo courtesy of Peter Martin