Created and performed by New York-based Permafrost Theatre Collective, Are You Alice: A New Wonderland Adventure is an exploration of Lewis Carroll’s iconic protagonist told through the prism of the 21st century.
This production walks you through Alice’s thoughts as she meets The Mad Hatter, The Red Queen, The Walrus and The Carpenter. As each actor merges from scenery to character back to Alice, the true triumph of this production is the voice work; the nature sound effects made by the all-female cast to accompany scene transitions are indeed praiseworthy.
Preoccupying every ‘Alice’, however, is the dastardly possibility that they all might be secondary characters in another’s dream – a frightening thought leading to the refrain of the song ‘Unless’. Sometimes, the solemnity of the actor’s borders on Saturday Night Live’s ‘High School Theatre’ sketch, but these moments of tongue-in-cheek severity are few and far between. Indeed, one might ascertain that in the face of characters like The Mad Hatter, sensible Alice has historically become a secondary character in her own wonder-filled story.
Occasionally, the trajectory of the show seems to be lost, and whilst calculated ambiguity is characteristic of Alice In Wonderland, the fragmented – or lack of – chronology could prove too befuddling for some children to fully comprehend. It fails to fully define Alice’s place in the 21st century; ‘Alice’ borders on existentialism, but never truly explores its implications. Through the Alices’ sporadic questioning of being a secondary role in another’s life, we catch glimpses of her psychic identity, but these episodes quickly move on to other anecdotes, despite her staunch refusal to be part of anybody else’s dream. Similarly, although the production is billed as ‘immersive’, this more derives from the show opening than any veritable breaking of the fourth wall. Still, as Alice says, “it’s pretty, even if it is hard to understand”, a surprisingly apt description of the production itself.
The marvel of the production is the allusive diversification of Alice: no longer remarkably Tenniel, she is every shape and size. This production has Alices with electric blue hair, Alices ballet dancing in tulle. There are other beautiful pearls of 21st century wisdom woven into Lewis Carroll’s characters, that transcend the audience for which he wrote. Overall, it is a charming twist focusing not on the tale, but Alice herself. It is undoubtedly a production brimming with talent, and whose victory is that everybody is Alice: a metaphor of inclusivity that proves anybody can be the heroine.
Are You Alice: A New Wonderland Tale is on at C-Viva Cellar (Venue 16)
At 14:30 until 26th August
Book tickets here
Image: Jody Christopherson