“And what is the use of a book”, thought Alice, “without pictures or conversation?”
Within the walls of Battersea Library, lined with shelves of fact and fiction alike, Blackshaw Theatre’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland conjures curious pictures and even curiouser conversation.
The library comes alive with the age-old children’s tale, injected with high colour, energy, laughter and insanity; this production provides something for everyone. It is told with a silliness to enthral the younger audience, but with astute comic injections from the two soldiers (played by Alexander Pankhurst and Richard Stratton) bound to bring a chuckle or two from the older viewers. The fun-filled show brims with chaos, madness and high jinks, where the unpredictable antics of Alice, the Cheshire cat, Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum and others reaches a frightening and fantastical climax at the court of the Queen of Hearts.
The production sticks to the classic story, where Alice, a symbol of logic, reason and matter-of-fact thinking, comes up against a chaotic mix of irrationality and nonsense in the world down the rabbit hole. Sprinklings of interactive experience bring a nice touch to a production that revolves around its audience: meeting the grumpy librarian and passing through the sleeping doors, the audience is led into a new part of the library and a new world with Alice. Without a principle stage, the production dances, runs, sleeps and skips around the rooms, meaning you are never quite sure where to look next, or from under which desk – or from behind which bookshelf – the Cheshire Cat will come creeping.
The scene of the Mad Hatter’s tea party, which is set across a backdrop of bookshelves, is one of the most notable. With costumes impressive enough for any good production, but eclectic enough to bring a touch of the home-made, the creative and the simple ‘old-fashioned fun’ to the show, Blackshaw Theatre’s production takes what can be a complex and confusing storyline for young readers, and brings it into a bright and silly world. The Queen (played by Steve Wickenden, who has an uncanny resemblance to the librarian Alice meets at the beginning of her story) is a whirlwind of outrageous unpredictability – a hit with children and certainly impressive comic relief for the adults.
At £3 a ticket for the younger viewers and running at just under an hour, there is no excuse not to visit Battersea Library on a May evening and step into the wild but classic tale of Alice in her fantastically retold Wonderland.
Alice in Wonderland is playing at the Battersea Library until 16 May as part of the Wandsworth Arts Festival. For more information, visit the Wandsworth Arts Festival website.