Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews


At the Sherman

Sherman Theatre Company- Alice In Wonderland , Sherman Theatre , November 30, 2018
At the Sherman by Sherman Theatre Company- Alice In Wonderland As a man approaching his 7th decade you would have thought I would left the works of Lewis Carroll far behind me. But a very weird production of "Alix In Wuntergarten" and then " Looking Through Glass" at The Chapter Arts Centre took me back to his books. An excellent production here a couple of years ago of "Jabberwocky" re-affirmed my belief that he is a much under-rated writer and mean it didn't take long for me to agree to see "Alice In Wonderland" and bring along some younger audience members.

I can be a little bit of a Christmas humbug at this time of year believing that the Christmas spirit does not truly arrive until December. However, as I arrived early to enjoy lovely Tapas and wine in the bar area while listening to gorgeous old-style Christmas music and watching children play among the presents and enjoy themselves with a variety of quizzes and colouring tasks I could feel my negativity thawing away. The joy of a Sherman theatre Christmas show is that it doesn't just start in the auditorium. Using the theme of the play there is a table set our for children with cakes and drinks with the relevant signs of " Eat Me" and "Drink Me" to lure them in.

Anyone of the books or films will know they are a visual delight but would provide some staging problems. However, designer Hayley Grindle's set is an eye-catching delight, a black and white mosaic pattern which magically conveys the key aspect of Alice getting bigger and smaller throughout the story. Mike Kenny has cleverly set events on a day that Alice is fretting about a forthcoming exam introducing us to all the characters we will later see and the tale takes a variety of astonishing turns ( think of Dorothy transferring her friends and family into the The Wizard Of Oz dream sequence). To make this a truly theatrical experience the wondrous Lucy Rivers ( I am a big fan of the works of Gagglebabble theatre) has composed music and songs to enhance the words and plot of Mr Carroll.

To anyone aware of the books there were no real surprises plot-wise of what followed. What was impressive, however, was the quality of the cast. Not only do they play multiple roles, sing and dance but they also play a variety of musical instruments ( really well). I hate to single people out, but I will anyway. The key role is, of course, Alice, quite a difficult role, and was beautifully played by relative newcomer Elian West who does extraordinarily well to hold her own against those perennial scene stealers Hannah McPake and Keiron Self as the Queen of Hearts and the Duchess, respectively. I must also mention Francois Pandolfo (playing Tweedlee and King) who almost single-handedly has revived my interest the author's works, as he was a co-writer of difficult stage productions of those above mentioned shows at Chapter.

The show is aimed at children 7 years and older, though there were younger children there, and runs for hour and forty minutes, including an interval which is a long time to keep them occupied at that age. The best compliment I can therefore make is that the fidgeting and movement around me was at a complete minimum as there was always enough going on to keep them interested and entertained.

This is Rachel O'Riordan's last production at the Sherman Theatre before she takes up the role as Artistic Director at the Lyric Hammersmith and she is definitely leaving on a high. My little group ran from the 10 - 59 years of age and we all loved it. I can't recommend it more than that. So, to find your lost youth or to treat your children head to Sherman Theatre before 29th December for fun literally for all the family.

Reviewed by: David Cox

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