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Drama Co-Curricular Life

Rapping rabbits, bubble-blowing caterpillars, a poetical dormouse, beatboxing unicorns, vengeful playing cards, singing sock-puppets and Mad March Hares… the Year 8 and 9 production of ‘Alice in Wonderland AND Alice Through the Looking Glass’ was a crazy carnival of theatrical delights which saw the Wroughton Theatre transformed into a psychedelic wonderland - the very stuff that dreams are made of! 

As the lights came up on the monochrome set, with its black and white trees, balloon blossoms and crazy-paving chessboard, we saw Reverend Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll - played with Victorian aplomb by Kai Dodgson) and the Liddel sisters (Abi Whittock and Freya Palmer) floating down a silken River Isis in a puppetry boat on an English summer’s day. ‘Tell us a story,’ they begged and so the magic began… The circus troupe of Wonderlanders filled the stage with colour and song and no fewer than five different Alices fell through hoops and swirling ribbons down, down, down to the bottom of the rabbit hole. And thus the fever dream fantasy unfurled.  

‘Eat me!... Drink me!’ sang pots and potions, as one minute Alice was the size of a tiny doll, the next big enough to dwarf the stage, her hands and feet like giant lollipops on sticks. She meets a White Rabbit (Imogen Luker) with the voice of an angel and a repertoire of witty repartee that leaves Alice bamboozled and the audience in awe. Then she bumps into a domineering Duchess (Lola Clayphan) who wouldn’t be out of place in Downton Abbey as she cradles a baby pig and declares, ‘We are all mad here!’ She’s chased by a Cheshire Cat resembling a Chinese dragon in polychromatic Juicy Couture, played by Rosa Franks, Issy Gale and Ava Shaw in a performance as crazily colourful as the costumes. And there’s no escaping the sweetly befuddled King of Hearts (Kai Durant-Valdez) and his deliciously despotic Queen (Beth Ritchie) who is like Queenie from ‘Blackadder’ as she commands a kangaroo court of playing cards and singing sock puppets to try the errant but hilariously unrepentant Knave of Hearts (Will Pile).  

Alice herself – or should I say selves, since she is played alternately (and sometimes simultaneously) by Harriet Haysler, Rebecca Jellis, Bonamy Purcell, Isla Stafford and Anna Treharne – is as beguiling and charismatic as John Tenniel first depicted her. Whether delighted or frighted, small or tall, bemused, amused or confused – these Alices never fail to delight. 

Our quintain of Alices stumble into the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, a nonsensical feast for the senses. Presiding at the table are Annabel Howlett - the gloriously eccentric Hatter - Cassie Milton, a crazily zany aristocratic March Hare and the adorably narcoleptic dormouse, played (when he was awake!) by Albie Beresford. These twenty-four-hour tea-party people Cossack caper around a living tea-table (replete with moving human legs and live teacups) in a crazy game of musical chairs as they dance to the manic whirligig of time.  

Wandering deeper into this weird and wonderful Wonderland, our Alices encounter birds of feather of every known species (and a few unknown too!) – from a delightfully bumbling Dodo (Amelie Highfield), to a dour Yorkshire Griffon (Theo Fallon), a chirpily colourful canary (Ella Miles), a magnificent magpie (Alisa Shaji), and a loquacious Lory (Sophie Hinds) – this avian flock squawks, squeaks and flaps tetchily in rhyming couplets. She meets the wonderfully weird Red Knight and the White Knight (Jack Watkin and James Ruffle) who ride hobby horses across the swirling squares of the chess board and deliver hilarious put-downs and crazy tales in iambic pentameter. Not forgetting the deliciously ditsy White Queen (Morven Boyd) and her sardonic nemesis the despotically bossy Red Queen (Juliette Gooberman-Hill) who galumph through the chess board before falling asleep on Alice’s shoulders.  

Transformation and multi-roleing abound in this production, as Alice slips through the Looking Glass in the second half to enter a world that is upside-down, topsy-turvy and back-to-front. Indi Hickman Shrive and Fred Gray appear first as a surreally psychedelic bubble blowing caterpillar - hilariously zen in tartan suits, bowler hats and blue lipstick - then reappear magically as the Lion and the Unicorn in a World Heavyweight face off that seems like a rap battle worthy of Tupac and The Notorious Biggie Smalls.  Teddy Bodey and Francis West appear first as the hilariously slapstick Fish and Frog footman, before metamorphosing magically into Tweedledum and Tweedledee - a miniature Ant and Dec in crazy clown suits accompanied by a chorus of all-singing, all dancing oysters. Iris Rostom is the Mock Turtle of Wonderland who conducts a chorus of all-singing, all dancing lobsters before transforming into a magnificently funny Carpenter. Barnaby Frith begins as an athletic octogenarian and transforms into Humpty Dumpty a hilariously sardonic enigmatic egg who spouts post-modern aphorisms as he declares, ‘When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” And Danny McKenzie is the backflipping young upstart who pops up magically in the second half as an errant knight who fights the monstrous Jabberwock!  

For me, though it is the Wonderlanders who steal this show, for it is they who bring the magic to life in this ‘Magic Roundabout’ of a production.  Rising to the KES drama department’s mantra that ‘there are no small parts’, the glorious chorus of singers (Christopher Cooper, Phoebe O’Mahony, Freya Palmer) and wonderful Wonderlanders (Grace Catton, Joely Clark, Abi Hardware, Olavi Hawkins, Aleena Jahanzab, Ricky Jiang, Ben Parsons Jones, Alvina Shaji, Evie Shepperdson, Emily Stenhouse) fill the stage with a weird and wonderful smorgasbord of circus delights. Whether they are beat-boxing to Chariots of Fire, creating a giant Jabberwocky with silken wings and flaming eyes made of rubber tyres, or playing vengeful playing cards, vengeful oysters, vengeful chess pieces (Wonderland is a surprisingly litigious place, rife with the forces of wild justice it seems!) Whether they are playing fawns, mice, horses or flowers; creating trains, borogroves or slithy toves; whether singing, chanting, gyreing or gimbling … our wonderful Wonderlanders allow the audience to ‘believe in at least six impossible things before breakfast’ and lend this show the magic Lewis Carroll brought so zanily to the page. 

The trance-like lighting and sound design of this production from the visionary James Sellick, along with the astonishing set and the fantastically glorious array of costumes, magicked into life by the magician that is Rebecca Walker, are as bright, brilliant, bold and beautiful as anyone could conceive in their wildest dreams. And the dreamers behind this production – our two astonishingly imaginative directors, Mrs Bird and Mrs Stevens-Craig, ably assisted by Jaye Williams and Year 10 Joseph Walker - take the audience on a gloriously hallucinatory journey into a fantasy world, down the rabbit hole, behind the looking glass, in the realms of reverie and daydream.  It’s a show of magic and mayhem, weird and wonderful, zany and crazy and fantastical! And seeing the Wroughton theatre full to the rafters – no social distancing, no masks, no empty seats, just an audience delighting in the panoply of talent on stage! Well, what a return to Wonderland! 


Review  - Mrs Bruton


Flickr album: Alice in Wonderland Production With Year 8 & 9 | Height: auto | Theme: Default | Skin: Default Skin


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