There is no doubt that Lewis Carroll's much-loved Alice in Wonderland is a favourite when it comes to capturing the imagination of young theatre lovers. What could make it even more enchanting? Perhaps turning it into a musical journey? That is exactly what Abrahamse and Meyer Productions have done with their latest theatrical offering inspired by this classic tale.
The book by Abrahamse draws on Carroll’s creation to sketch a story that follows Alice (Carmen Pretorius) as she meets an array of colourful characters, including a vibrant Garden of Singing Flowers, a smoke-puffing Caterpillar, a semi-translucent neon-bright Cheshire Cat, and oddly fascinating Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. But, the characters who truly command the stage are the Queen of Hearts (Bianca Flanders), White Rabbit (Dean Balie), Mad Hatter (Gordon van der Spuy), March Hare (Alex Tops) and the puppet presence of the adorable Dormouse. All the performers are captivatingly energetic, with their vibrancy further accentuated by striking costumes.
As far as narrative arc is concerned, this glimpse into Wonderland is an abridged version of journey and return —it has an exploration focus to trigger the imagination, rather than introducing a challenging new quest for Alice.
Although every audience member’s favourite scene may differ, I found the tea party to have an escapism charm that lingers upon one’s return to reality thanks to the appropriately over-the-top antics of Van der Spuy and Tops. The delightfully mad character traits Flanders brings to the ‘off with their heads’ Queen also makes for memorable children’s theatre magic.
The success of this form of entertainment however hinges on a special form of audience participation (as children can be the toughest critics when not completely mesmerized) calling on Alice and the White Rabbit to instantly become their confidants and guide them on this adventure. Pretorius and Balie greatly assist in drawing in the young audience —watching their reactions as they are invited to comment on the White Rabbits tardy-troubles will bring a smile to the face of the most realistic adults.
When taking the family to enjoy this fairy tale interlude to everyday life, one must be cognisant of the fact that this production shares its magic outside the realm of a traditional theatre. Occasionally, noises from the outside (mall) world may filter through to Wonderland, but adventure nevertheless awaits those who are willing to suspend their disbelief and jump down the rabbit hole with Alice.
Any production that can encourage the youthful to dream is worth supporting. You have until 15 July 2018 to go experience the theatrical madness that awaits in this version of Alice in Wonderland at Canal Walk. Tickets are available through Computicket.