Alice in Wonderland (a musical pantomime)

‘Alice in Wonderland’ is a musical pantomime, loosely based on the book by English writer Lewis Carroll. This insipid adaptation is by Mike Carter.

The novel was thought to have been written after one of Carroll’s migraines or epilepsy attacks. Carroll’s real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, he was born 180 years ago and became world-famous as a children’s fiction writer. He was also a mathematical genius –  in 1855 he became one of the inventors of algorithms – h was a controversial photographer and High-Church Anglican deacon. He studied and taught at Christ Church College in Oxford, where the Dean of Christ Church, Henry Liddell had a daughter Alice, widely identified as the original for Alice in Wonderland, though Carroll always denied this.

Carroll was born in All Saints’ Vicarage, Daresbury, near Liverpool; this church now has a stained-glass window depicting characters from ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. About 90 years after his death, a memorial stone to Carroll was unveiled in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey.

This 2-hour Darlington Players Production can be seen at the Marloo Theatre, 20 Marloo Road, Greenmount each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evening at 7.30 until Saturday 14th March.

The Scene: Around 1910 in an English woodland.

The set: The scenes backdrops were colourful symbolic country scenes (Benedict Chau), projected onto the rear white cyclorama.

George Boyd and his team (Mary-Anne Dawson, Liam Simpson, David, Sharon and Sarah Zuiddam, Zac and Steve Moloney, Ian Ashman, Owen Davis and Ambro Vonk) produced several intricate and well-built mini sets on castors. These included a kitchen with a huge cauldron, stove and workbenches; a fabulously colourful set of mushrooms and toadstools for the caterpillar, with the pièce-de-résistance being the tea table – Brilliant, loaded with magical, colourful props.

Supervised by Shelly Miller, the lighting design and operation was by Bailey Fellows who produced a few good ‘threatening’ effects. The follow spots were in the capable hands of Tegan Leggett and Timothy Zuiddam. Careful not to wash out the projected scene with too much light, otherwise well done.

Guy Jackson’s soundscape worked well and was operated by James Bell. I saw the final rehearsal and the major gremlin again reared its head. Poor Chelsea Cook seemed to be struggling to get any of the very necessary (young kids need them) headsets to operate, but I have full faith in her and Guy. If anything goes wrong, it will be the headsets.

The efficient Stage Manager Belinda Beatty and her Assistant Stage Manager Locklen Falkingham became part of a dance routine – great movers both scenery and bodies.

The White Rabbit (Kate Temme) ran through the auditorium clutching her watch. She is late. In the woods young Alice (Daisy Churchman) is out collecting berries. Just after meeting a French Mouse (Sophie Hennigan) Alice found herself down a rabbit hole and in a strange world.

The Dodo (Katelyn Barr)

The Duck (Sophie David – Dance Captain)

The Duckling (Tahli Redgwell)

Eaglet (Lily Churchman)

The Caterpillar (Niamh O’Hehir – excellent)

The Fish Footman (Bailey O’Hehir)

The Frog Footman (Jenn Hurley-Green)

The Cook (Megan West, very good)

The Duchess (Rebecca McRae)

The Cheshire Cat (Saoirse Gerrish)

The Mad Hatter (Sean Wcislo, best in show)

The March Hare (Chris McRae, very good)

The Dormouse (Jemima Lee)

Card Guards (all good fun); Lilly Miller, Oscar Uetake, Talia Barley, Evie Madeleine, Caitlyn Moloney

The Queen of Hearts (Tracey Morrison, wonderful)

The King of Hearts (Jackson Lucas, very good)

Knave (Guy Jackson)

Tweedledum (Jack Churchman) and Tweedledee (David Bell) good fun teamwork

The Gryphon (Mike Moshos brought sparkle)

The Mock Turtle (Kika van Wilde, great voice)

Director Rachel Vonk is a theatre veteran who has tackled all genres, but my heart went out to her with this adaptation and its backing music. Musical director Michelle Ezzy handled the fifteen uninteresting and repetitive songs accompanied by the poor bland backing disc. We know that Michelle is one of WA’s best musical directors, but with such a young cast, the songs and tunes need to have to have plenty of kick and a strong beat to keep them interested. Only with the revamped ABBA song at the end of the pantomime did everyone come alive.

Choreographer Ebony Uetake did an amazing job, with some of the youngest dancers being outstanding – especially well-done Jemima Lee as dormouse. Loved Mad Hatter and March Hare’s clock hands dance routine.

The amazing costumes by Marjorie DeCaux not surprisingly required a large team of creators and helpers (Lynda Stubbs, Amanda Moloney, Anna Wright, Evone Miller, Tobi Galley, Kylie Barr, Gill Lee, Angela Gerrish, Rebecca Bev, Shelly Miller, Tracy and Rachel Vonk) to produce the dozens of high-quality outfits. However, I did not recognise the Cheshire Cat in her black silk and net evening gown; and the Tweedledee and Tweedledum are usually quite fat, but this might be a little difficult to create and still be practical – the school uniforms worked.

Bravely, director Rachel selected the performers, technicians and stage crew a huge percentage of whom were in their early to mid-teens and gave them a chance. They worked so incredibly hard in every department but were let down by the one thing outside their control – the adaptation; sadly, this happened to another extremely talented group with their last pantomime.