Beginning it’s journey in 2016 and following a smash hit 2018 tour, LA based Rapidfire International brings back to the Australian stage Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland.
Entering the quaint Athenaeum Theatre (perfect venue for this classic) you are immediately transported to a true Wonderland. The bird chirping soundscape, simple yet effective set design complete with giant mushrooms and massive spiral ‘rabbit hole’, lush and character filled costumes (Gayle MacGregor) and an atmospheric lighting design by Jeremy Dehn meld effortlessly to capture the imaginations of every person young and ‘not so young’ at this packed opening night.
This atmospheric production is directed by quadruple threat, actor, singer, writer, director Penny Farrow and with recent credits including Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Elegies for Angels, Punks & Raging Queens, Working! A Musical, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change all for Performing Arts Queensland Conservatorium you know you are in good hands. Farrow’s direction is for the most part precise and purposeful especially in the intimate scenes. But a couple of the larger moments, namely the tea party and the trial of the stolen tarts, are a touch too frenetic and we lose clarity and miss some those wonderfully humorous lines and character direction. But in a nine scene production to relish, these small hiccups don’t detract from the evenings enjoyment.
The cast are all strong with many doubling as puppeteers. Georgina Walker as Alice pitches the right amount of juvenile awe and wonder and is in no way patronising to her young audience. Liz Skitch’s flighty White Rabbit is a delight and an obvious favourite with the 4 year old set. Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee (Sarah Whalen & Justine Anderson) bounce around the stage in all their rotund goofball glory; while Mad Hatter (Catherine Glavicic) and March hare (Benjamin Adams) make the most of their classic tea party moments.
Anthony Craig doubling as the cool hookah smoking caterpillar (complete with spectacular transformation) and the delightful sleepy dormouse is wonderfully present throughout while Simon Burvill-Holmes’ panto-esque Queen of Hearts is deliciously camp with just the right amount of menace without becoming frightening.
There really is so much to enjoy with this production and it’s refreshing to see a classic that has been treated as such, without feeling the need to adapt and modernise.
But I’m going to leave it to the real critics, my two four year old companions for the evening, Ava and Regan to give us the final words…..And those words are a resounding 5 stars!
Alice in Wonderland is touring Frankston, Bendigo and Perth until 23 January.