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Alice in Winterland

Fun, feel-good, festive: The Rose Theatre's Alice in Winterland will leave you with a smile on your face and a tear in your eye.

Madeleine Lynes as Alice. Alice in Winterland, Rose Theatre

Madeleine Lynes as Alice. Photograph by Mark Douet

Take one classic tale of timeless adventure, whimsy and fun. Tweak it to give it a festive feel. Throw in an incredibly talented cast of local kids and a handful of professionals. And finally add a good dollop of clever puppetry.

What you get is a wonderful Christmas production that will make you laugh and cry, but ultimately put a giant smile on your face. And isn’t that what Christmas is all about.

Ciaran McConville’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s timeless books, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass begins on Christmas eve 1917 against a backdrop of the First World War. Alice’s father has returned from war, injured and unable to care for his daughter who is being sent to live with her cold-hearted aunt.

It’s an emotional beginning (or maybe I just had something in my eye) which culminates in a visit from the White Rabbit who takes off with a pocket watch that had been gifted to Alice by her ailing father. Time is suspended at two minutes to four.

And of course, Alice must follow the rabbit and retrieve the watch.

Emily Porter as the Dormous; Daniel Goode as the Mat Hatter and Rhea Norwood as the March Hare. Photograph by Mark Douet

As is usual for the Rose’s Christmas shows, the Rose Youth Theatre take centre stage – and on press night we saw a superb blue team, with a talented Madeleine Lynes as Alice. She brings a subtlety and genuine sensitivity to the role – and still manages to shine amid the cacophony of crazy characters which surround her.

Most of our favourites are there – the White Rabbit, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Dormouse, the Blue Caterpillar, the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the Duchess, the Dodo, and plenty of chess pieces and playing cards – with the winter additions of three charming penguins.

 

There’s a touch of the panto dame to Susannah Van Den Berg’s wonderfully flouncy Queen of Hearts, and Daniel Goode is both endearing and bonkers as the Mad Hatter, while Amanda Gordon’s Cheshire Cat is deliciously lithe Cheshire Cat. Jonathan Andrew Hume was charming as both the Blue Caterpillar and the Knave, and Tony Timberlake was convincing as the muddled White Knight.

The kids who are part of the Rose Youth Theatre are all terribly talented, but for me there were one of two stand-outs – apart from Alice, of course. Rhea Norwood was a wonderfully disturbed and slightly raving March Hare, and Jack Bartlett was endearing and reassuringly composed as the Dodo. Emily Porter was a cute little Dormouse and Francis Redfern was impressive as the voice and lead puppeteer of Banderstatch.

Puppets play a fairly big part and are incredibly impressive – the shrunken Alice and Duchess’s piglet baby to a huge Bandersnatch and even bigger Jabberwocky.

Susannah Van Den Berg as the Queen of Hearts and Jonathan Andrew Hume as the Knave. Photograph by Mark Douet

The stage was set around a giant staircase, with clever projections transporting us from Alice’s home to the various parts of Winterland including the Queen’s Palace and the Mad Hatter’s tea party.

Alice’s adventures are always going to be fun, and with some well-timed cheesy puns, beautifully executed songs, several strong moral messages and a final snowy scene (er, was that something in my eye again), this production makes for wonderful family entertainment.

If you’re looking for a festive show that’s entertaining for the whole family – and with no sign of the eye-rolling ‘he’s behind you’ brigade – then this is for you. It’s superb.

Alice in Winterland is at the Rose Theatre, Kingston until Sun 7 January 2018. rosetheatrekingston.org

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