It’s not often that, half-way through a community theatre Christmas show, you start to seriously wonder whether someone has slipped something vaguely hallucinogenic into your interval drink.
Dancing baby oysters, musical numbers devoted to making haddock’s eyes into buttons and a fair amount of tongue-twisting pretzel-logic are all on offer in the latest family-friendly fever dream at the Jersey Arts Centre.
It is quite literally impossible to describe the plot of this production, in the most wonderful sense. The sheer scale of the madness played out over the two hours beggars any kind of coherent description, as it should.
All I can say is that the Jersey Arts Centre, in collaboration with ARTcomedia from Brittany, have worked staggeringly hard to bring the iconic weirdness of Lewis Carroll’s beloved stories to the stage.
The night is broken into two halves, with the first part of the show taking the audience through the pages of Alice in Wonderland, and the second covering the sequel, Through the Looking Glass.
The world of Lewis Carroll is reflected brilliantly by the show's genuinely impressive design.
The height and width of the stage are adorned with an ornate bookshelf, studded with heavy wooden doors, complimented with fashioned set pieces to bring the audience into a kind of Victorian study, with a checkered black-and-white path snaking its way to the back of the stage hinting at the perspective-melting adventure to come.
ADVENT CALENDAR - 13 DEC— Jersey Arts Centre (@JsyArtsCentre) December 13, 2022
MEET SOME WONDERLAND CHARACTERS! ????????????????
As a special treat today, we're sharing this montage of our 14 actors as some of their 'Alice in Wonderland' characters! Come along and see them in all their glory
BOOK NOW!https://t.co/VJBVfoxxK0 pic.twitter.com/VUkhFojsvG
The costumes are varied, with each of Carroll’s litany of eccentric characters getting their own, custom-designed outfit. Walking-talking playing cards, grinning-Cheshire cats, kings, queens, knights, duchesses’, crocodiles, dodos, mice, sheep, rabbits, fawns and so many more are all adorned with bewildering array of eye-popping garments. Along with the kaleidoscopic lighting and whimsical sound design, the show looks and sounds just as we imagine wonderland would.
Alice’s adventures would not be as iconic as they are without the characters that inhabit Lewis Carroll’s topsy-turvy world, and the cast does a wonderful job of bringing them to life.
The cast, a full 13-strong of all ages, have an awful lot on their plate. Alice (Kate Meadows) remains our only constant, our guide through Wonderland. Meadows is in every scene, at every twist and turn, and is delightful.
Pictured: From left to right: Jordi Sunier as the Cheshire Cat, Kate Meadows as Alice, Nicole Twinham as the Caterpillar and Ben O'Shea as the White Rabbit. (Darren Huelin)
The rest of the cast are changing characters at the drop of a hat, with each cast member springing onto the stage wielding completely new idiosyncrasies and personalities at the drop of a hat.
Ben O’Shea begins the play as the Earnest Mr Charles Dodgson, before streaking onto the stage barely minutes later as the fluffy tailed white rabbit.
James Edey brings the stage to life with his utterly mad Hatter, chortling and laughing away with the March Hare (Jenny McCarthy) like a pair of Regency-era twits, before an act later strutting onto the stage as a Lord Flashheart-esque White Knight.
Hettie Duncan begins the show as a jittery Dodo, before preceding to utterly tyrannise her grovelling pack of cards during an execution-fuelled game of hedgehog croquet as the Queen of Hearts. Each cast member is their own theatrical Swiss Army Knife and the dedication each has put in to their roles is clear to see.
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass looks and feels like its hopped straight out of the rabbit hole. It’s wonderfully weird, fantastic to look at and well worth watching.
The production is running at the Jersey Arts Centre until 22 December. Tickets are £20 (£15 for children) and can be purchased here.
Pictured top: The cast of Jersey Arts Centre's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. (Wayne Stewart)
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