Alice in Wonderland

Sat 20th – Tue 23rd July 2013

reviews

Julia Gottwald

at 02:57 on 21st Jul 2013

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A warm summer evening under a beautiful tree in Christ Church Meadow. The audience sits in a small circle, families brought blankets and picnics. In the middle of this intimate setting: Alice surrounded by six people dressed in white, running around, teasing each other, enjoying themselves. A perfect moment that already feels like Wonderland.

The Oxford University Dramatic Society created a play that is full of funny ideas and enchanting little details. Apart from Alice, all the actors wear white shirts and leggings - and if you look close enough, you'll see that the women's leggings are covered with little hearts. This is just one of the countless charming ideas, that make this production so appealing.

The ensemble works really well together most of the time. When Alice falls down the rabbit hole and grows tremendously due to the "EAT ME" cake, two additional actors in the background make her arms appear absurdly long. An absolute highlight is also the Caterpillar: brilliantly played by Richard Hill, who seems to be very comfortable in his own skin and moves in a way that is just hilarious. Upon entering the scene, he seems to have six hands - the two actors behind him have a great timing and have everyone's laughs. Same is true for the Cheshire Cat, who is played by the whole ensemble. They make it appear and disappear, while one actor talks, the other one moves his mouth. Another excellent idea that works really well.

There are, however, some weak spots. Although Alice (Phoebe Hames) is charming and a great fit, her timing is not always perfect. She reacted a bit too early a few times - before her colleagues even gave her reason to be surprised or amused. Also, the Queen of Hearts (Vanessa Goulding) could be even more eccentric and bizarre. She did not seem to be key character in this adaption, which was slightly disappointing.

Far more memorable are the Duchess (again Richard Hill), the Mad Hatter (Johnny Purkiss), and the White Rabbit (Tom Lambert). The actors seemed to put less effort into the acting; it appeared more natural and was entertaining to watch.

Altogether, the team created a brilliant production with some great moments. The changes between serious scenes (Alice talking to her uncle) to absolutely surreal ones (Mad Hatter's tea party) involving the same actors, keep the play interesting. And when Alice wakes up in the end and finds herself still surrounded by some of the characters from Wonderland, one almost feels like having a nightmare - but in a very surreal and good way. Maybe Wonderland is right here?

I certainly enjoyed the play, the performances of most actors, and well-thought-out props and sound effects. The location - Christ Church as Alice's birthplace - is unique and has its own charm. Hopefully, the cast will manage to compensate for that in London and Edinburgh.

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