Box Tale Soup’s production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland takes its audience down the rabbit hole and into Carroll’s familiar world of Cheshire cats, endless tea parties, and run-ins with the Queen of Hearts. The two-person cast multi-role with slick proficiency in this puppetry-based re-imagining, charming their audience entirely.
On first sight the stage resembles an expanded children’s table-top puppet theatre, with puppets on sticks facing away from the audience, as if ready for play time. The design of the stage, as well as the costumes of both the performers and their puppets (text-printed, fabric-lined and highlighted), ensured that Carroll’s words remain interwoven with the play’s action at all times.
Antonia Christophers and Noel Byrne both slip in and out of all the characters of Wonderland with well-rehearsed ease and masterful puppetry skills. Though Christophers’ characterisation of Alice feels at times a little clichéd, her ability to multi-role a number of difficult characters cannot be faulted. This is particularly impressive during interactions between Alice and puppets Christophers’ is controlling and voicing; it would be easy for these exchanges to feel farcical but instead are charming and effortlessly performed. Byrne, too, can be commended for his fantastic characterisation of the Cheshire cat, the talking flowers, the Queen of Hearts and a multitude of characters in between. Byrne’s performance of a musical Tweedle Dum/Tweedle Dee is a particular highlight in a multitude of beautifully performed characters.
The centre of the piece, as is Box Tale’s trademark, is a trunk which acts as a three-dimensional fold-out story book. As a fringe festival, stages are no strangers to cardboard props, but Box Tale go above and beyond imagination with their beautifully crafted mini-theatre. They pull from it scene after scene and construct forest after garden to aid in their story-telling. The show’s original score by Dan Melrose provides the perfect touch of intrigue and magic to this charming stage experience.
This production seamlessly married fantastic performances with beautiful puppetry to produce a very enjoyable hour of child-friendly theatre. It employed simple but very effective design elements and performances to make Carroll’s absurd tale accessible and endlessly enjoyable for a younger audience.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is playing at The Warren as part of the Brighton Fringe until 1 June. For more information and tickets, see the Brighton Fringe website.