Review: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland at the Polka Theatre
You can always rely on a Polka Xmas show to add a bit of original sparkle to all of the seasonal glitz. But with the tale of Alice in Wonderland so iconic, creating something new could have been tricky.
For me the book is quite heavy going, but ironically, it's by sticking closely to the original story that the Polka team bring us something very fresh and accessible.
It's a show that's visually gorgeous, pacey and beautifully played. Colour is everywhere, as set pieces move from midnight blue to greens and scarlets. Plus song, dance and plenty of running about means it packs a physical punch, which carries it along at a rollicking pace.
Bringing such a strange tale to life on stage is a challenge, without the benefit of cinematic special effects, but Polka pull it off nicely. The whole shrinking and growing process is managed with a mix of mini doors and projections, while it's a ride on a twisted swing that transports Alice down the rabbit hole – blimey she must have been dizzy!
When the action does start to lag it generally comes back with a bang. The slow paced caterpillar scene is smartly followed by the in-your-face arrival of the Cook and Duchess - one of the highlights for me with thanks to a diva Duchess and raunchy Cheshire Cat in a fur coat.
A big strength is strong performances from a cast who are fun and hugely versatile, flitting seamlessly between multiple personas. Nia Davies is a lovely Dormouse and I particularly liked the Mock Turtle (Dale Superville), whose Lobster Quadrille with Robert Saunders' fiery Gryphon is another high point.
And if you've ever found the character of Alice, with her prim dress and eponymous hairband, a little bland, Ebony Feare brings a refreshing energy and immediacy to the role that really takes us along on her journey.
If there's one thing I would change it would maybe be more of a nod to the season with extra audience participation and sing-alongs – but that's probably being picky as there's generally enough to keep the attention of all but the youngest in the target age group.
December 2, 2013