WHEN you come to think about it, Lewis Carroll’s immortal story Alice in Wonderland has a surreal and game-like quality about it, so no surprise that Joshua Coley should have chosen it for a “reloaded” pantomime, and so Strode Theatre Productions are staging the sparkling new show for Christmas 2023
There are so many good ideas and performances it’s hard to know where to start, but like all pantomimes, this one needs a responsive audience, and the hard-working, dancing, singing acting company must have been a bit disappointed after a barnstorming opening performance to find a second show audience suffering from participation overload.
Nothing abashed, the extraordinary young Edmund Boulton-Roberts, playing Alex, gave a high-energy performance that powered the show forward through the doldrums, and he was brilliantly supported by other leading characters, including the dominatrix Queen of Hearts (Phoebe Petrov), Jordan Phillpotts’ quirky Caterpillar, Braydon Smythe and Gabe Tadesco-Bond as Tweedles Dum and Dee, Olly Shakesby’s White Rabbit and audience favourite the Cheshire Cat (Lucy Hunt).
The opening Wonderland chorus is marvellous, with the full company catching the spirit of the original story and putting in memorable cameo moments.
Alex is fed up with school. Algebra is a bore, revision a chore. His best friend Billie (an ardent Daisy Lee) tries to get him to work, but instead our hero finds an old game console, bound for Antiques Roadshow – well it dates from the 90s – and it invites him into a game called Wonderland.
He and Billie have to get the right answers to the questions to progress to the end, and if they do, they will free the residents of Wonderland from the brutal and sadistic power of the Queen, whose favourite word is OWTH (off with their heads, for the uninitiated).
To make it into a pantomime a dame must be included, so Alex’s mum Patty has been created, and Tom Crout has been given all the regulation damely things to do and say. Just a hint though – NEVER chose any long or complicated phrase for the audience to shout back to a panto character. They will get lost … they did!
The dancing in this show is exceptional, with many of the young dancers from Street and the surrounding villages on stage and doing their thing, fantastically made up, in beautiful costumes and on inventive sets with back projections and occasional computerised action. Choosing gaming as the motor force has its own difficulties. People over about 30 won’t have a clue what’s going on, and those under about seven will also lose the plot (literally).
Alex in Wonderland : A Pantomime Adventure : RELOADED, directed by Dean Brammall, is a spectacular undertaking, performed by an exceptional cast of youngsters, and bravely tackling the constant quest to update the classics.
Performances are on various dates and times until 31st December, and it certainly is a Christmas show with a difference.
Photographs by Len Copland