Review: Alice in Wonderland – Blackshaw Theatre

Young or old, everyone loves a good fairy tale adaptation. Alice in Wonderland has always been an interesting one with everyone from Disney to the Care Bears having their shot at retelling the classic not to mention Burton’s Gothic twist on the treasured tale. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s most famous work, Wandsworth-based theatre company Blackshaw is performing a new adaptation by Richard Stratton, at Battersea Library as part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2015.

Friendly and likable Alice (Emily Tucker) has lost her cat Dinah, but when her search leads her to the library, falling into the haughty librarian (Steve Wickenden) Alice begins her fall down the rabbit hole into the heart of Wonderland. Beginning with the door with an answer to everything the audience are led through the library to join Alice on her quest to find her missing kitty.  

I’ve seen many an Alice adventure in my time from ballet to pantomime but what really makes this piece work is it’s site specific nature. A style which Blackshaw have been successful with  in the past with theatrical feats at locations to include Covent Garden Actors Church.The audience’s journey through the library is an enchanting one and works well to keep the attention span of it’s younger guests who are invited to move about as they please, to find their own journey through Wonderland. Richard Stratton’s script is a witty one that is engaging for a younger audience whilst still allowing plenty of giggles for the bigger kids in our twenties. But the real strength here is the ensemble cast, each taking on a number of roles and bouncing off each other to keep the piece a real energy.

Rosie Marsh is a total treat as the March Hare, usually one of my least favourite Wonderland characters, the actress was just so animated that if I were to meet her in real life I would be genuinely confused as to where her furry ears were! But the real spectacle here is Steve Wickenden as the queen of hearts. I’ll be honest in that initially the idea of Alice with a drag aspect made me feel a little queasy, taking the tale that little bit too panto. But Ellie Pitkin’s creative direction is far from this allowing Wickenden to dazzle as the angry red queen, bringing every inch of madness that carol’s creative mind intended. In all it’s an enjoyable hour suitable for the child in all of us.

Further performances take place in Battersea Library – Friday 15th May 7.30pm; Saturday 16th May 6pm and 7.30pm. Tickets cost £6 for adults and £3 for children under 12.

For more information visit the Wandsworth Arts and Fringe Festival website

Photo credit:Simon Annand