I went to see this production at the excellent Redbridge Drama Centre. This treatment of Alice was written and directed by our very own Tiffany King, centre director at Reading Theatretrain. Tiffany is a living ball of energy who seems to fit three times the number of things into her professional life than the rest of us.
The production was for young people and had been touring schools before visiting this theatre. Alice is a typical 14-year-old – a little troubled by life, unsure of herself with pressures building from the things going on around her. Her parents run a theatre, but the money is running out, and the bills haven’t been paid – at one point the electrical supply is cut off. So, Alice’s retreats into her head to escape reality and starts a journey of fantasy during which she discovers things about herself.
This being aimed at young people there was a lot of knock-about humour, chasing about, interaction with props – including some beautifully designed hats and of course song and dance. Everything is larger than life – more shouty, more silly and crazier. The set was inventive with standing mirrors, a tree that lit up and hanging chairs that could be used as part of the action.
I liked the message that our imagination may give us personal problems, but it is the key to our futures. When we work together and pool our ideas then we have hope for the future – and isn’t that exactly what theatre is for? A place to see our world reflected and to ponder on what we can do.
I’ve struggled in the past with the Alice story because it’s very absurd with talking cats that disappear, a dormouse in a teapot and a mad hatter – and then the “Off with her head!” overbearing Queen. It can be become tedious and a bit indulgent but here there was a furious pace, a lot of humour and a central message that we can connect with. We warmed to Alice because like most kids growing up, she is confronted with a world that seems ridiculous and over authoritarian. Where does she fit in? By the end Alice makes sense of what is around her, finds her voice and makes her corner of the world something that she can control.
Eventually the wrongs were righted, the theatre was able to reopen, and the “real” characters seemed more human than their counterparts in the fantasy – warmer, friendlier, and more caring about each other. Not a bad message for us to be considering as we walked out into the cold December air.
Since 1992 Theatretrain has been leading the way in performing arts training for children and teenagers alike. Our top-quality lessons in acting, singing and dancing help to build children’s confidence and develop essential life skills. If you would like to learn more about our theatre schools and our unique performing arts training for young people visit www.theatretrain.co.uk.