‘Everything for the inner child & perfect for the outer ones’: ALICE IN WONDERLAND – Ipswich ★★★★

In Children's theatre, Opinion, Plays, Regional theatre, Reviews by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

Avenue Theatre, Ipswich – until 31 December 2018

“Posh panto”,  for wincing parents fleeing the rackety showbiz ’n smut of the season, can be a bit chilly – neither one thing nor the other. But Christmas shows can power through both snobbery and the inverted kind, and be a complete delight for all.

I do mean all: Joanna Carrick’s adaptation, a spirited three-hander, is astonishingly faithful to Lewis Carroll’s text and, importantly, spirit; the crankiest Oxford literary historian could find nothing to miss (despite an artful reference to Bake-Off and the fact that Humpty Dumpty, with his finicky use of words and economic illiteracy, just happens to have a Boris Johnson hairdo). It is very Carroll, including a marvellously elegant Victorian nursery set and brilliantly designed costumes by Katy Frost, beautifully echoing Tenniel’s illustrations. Yet a row of tiny pre-schoolers sat entranced for two 40-minute halves, one keenly volunteering as Dormouse and submitting to a ventriloquist’s fake-mouth mask.

Leonie Spilsbury has the right look for Alice and such a smilingly witty gift with the smaller ones that one checks her programme CV and finds that indeed she is no stranger to children’s theatre (in amid Brecht and Ibsen, it’s a varied life).

In her Alice frock she strides and twinkles around,  playing the guitar sometimes,  confronted by – or collaborating with – Darren Latham and Lawrence Russell as the series of Carroll creatures. Father William, Tweedledum and Dee, Rabbit, a gloriously languid French caterpillar, a stiffly mad Red Queen though not madder than the gorgeous Hatter, a properly  barmy Duchess, an Aussie lizard and Dormouse, the good old wallpaper-roll gag, and a Cheshire cat who invaded the audience and lay across the laps of patrons, purring violently. And despite Alice’s “this is not panto”,  there is a behind-you and a perilous flinging of jam tarts. Everything for the inner child, and perfect for the outer ones.

 

www.redrosechain.com  to 26th     A FEW TICKETS LEFT!!

RATING FOUR

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Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.
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Libby Purves on RssLibby Purves on Twitter
Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.

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