Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Alice through the touch screen

In the world, but not of the world

Alice's Adventures in


Crescent Studio Theatre


LEWIS Carroll's Victorian children's classic opened up a world of bizarre characters where language and words battle with reason and everyone is mad . . . as a hatter, otherwise, as the Cheshire Cat tells us, they wouldn't be there.

And Stage2's reworking of Alice treads the same weird and illogical paths as the original although I suspect that it introduces an extra element with a generational gap and it also brings in a sadness, which may or may not have been intentional.

Alice, played by the excellent Georgia Homer, is tired of school and boring text books and finds escape in her laptop and the world of her namesake in Wonderland except our modern Alice's escape is to a world of tweets, of hash tags, likes, @, trending and hyperlinks – the of social media . . . and that is where demographics come in.

The older the audience, and the younger strangely, the less likely they are to use social media, only one per cent of users are over 65 while, remarkably,  only five per cent are under 17. More than half fall between 25 and 44 and, interestingly, the majority of users are women. (Source: Pingdom 2012)

So for any performance there will be audience members who will find an alien world speaking in a foreign language and using unfamiliar conventions – which is perhaps where the sadness comes in with the realisation that a civilisation that could give us the language of Shakespeare and the James I Bible is now giving us the vacuous world of social media and txt spk, with its ugly, inelegant stripped down linguistics and an obsession with celebrity and trivia.

Some of Carroll's clever games with language are still there though such as Alice's discussion about who she is with The Caterpillar, played confidently by Leah Martindale, or a complex monologue from Peter Collier as a splendid Mad Hatter which even had smatterings of rap.

 Both speeches create the problem for both learning and performing of being largely nonsense with a flow and rhythm that depends upon the actor rather than any logical structure and both youngsters delivered their difficult lines with aplomb, the Hatter aided by a suitable loopy March Hare played by Annabelle Quirin and the weirdly hooded Anonymouse played by Gabriel Hudson.


Fine performances too from the fish and frog footmen, Alex Thompson-Carse and Luca Hoffman, keepers of passwords and random letters to foil trawling bots such as automated spammers – told you it was another language. Then we had the King of Hearts, Tom Baker and his loony queen, Sarah Quinn, who goes in for screaming and beheading in a big way.

Less violent are the strange pairing of The Mock Turtle and The Griffin, or The Gryphon, played by George Bandy and Joshua Gordon, discussing the merits or otherwise of modern schools and teachers and discovering . . . girls, which is enough for the nerdy Turtle to remove his glasses and try for cool and hip.

There are many more notable efforts from the large number of characters. 23 in all,  who must have worked hard and long to reach the level of precision needed for many scenes, and, as this is Stage2 who work on the Ben Hur principle of casting, there is also a huge chorus of 31.

Leading us through at the start is Meg Luesley as The White Rabbit while taking over as the guide is Tom Butler as a wonderful Cheshire Cat. His grinning, rather floppy manner reminded me much of a youthful Christopher Biggins as he beamed and bumbled around the stage.

With such a large cast it needs a lot of discipline to prevent it all descending into a mob but director Lucy Bailey-Wright keeps a firm grip on things – as do her charges who seem to know exactly what they are doing at all times.

A notable feature of Stage2 productions is that the cast are always acting. There is no standing around looking bored, staring into space, looking for mates in the audience, waiting to say a line or exit left, everyone on stage always seems to have a purpose, to be part of the scene, taking an interest, even if the purpose is merely to look as if you have a purpose.


Technically it is a challenging production based around a simple set of Alice's bedroom in the background and a stage of blocks decorated with large with common social media ascii characters such as @ and #.

Above is a large projection screen with a video screen at either side which brought in another element as we first saw Alice's search for Carroll's Alice, allowing her to break out of her world into that of, and then whole conversations seen as tweets on the huge projection screen.

Synchronising with pre-recorded video or music is a skill that takes no prisoners and full marks to the cast here for not only coming in on cue with their on screen tweets but also getting virtually every word right.  

This live/video mix became even more impressive in a final musical number when the entire cast of thousands – all right 54 – filled the stage with a none too easy dance which synchronised exactly with the same dance filmed with the same cast to the same music in the same costumes at Millennium Point in what was a classy piece of staging.

There are a couple of moments when pauses were a fraction too long and a couple of graphics that perhaps needed more polish but the combination of mediums largely worked well. 

The graphics and video were apparently created by a group from the technical team and then lighting designer and production manager Chris Cuthbert pulled it all together.

This is not a play in the conventional sense and combines live acting with video, graphics and music ranging from Police and Roxanne to Puccini and Turandot in what is a multi-media performance as Alice explores a whole universe of different worlds out in the cyberspace of social media. In mundo, sed non de mundo - In the world, but not of the world as one graphic tells us.

Through her we discover that it is a world that is not always welcoming, and despite living only within computers, is not always logical or even fair. The result is a clever piece of theatre, well presented and acted, as you would expect from Stage2, but at the end you somehow felt it had been a somewhat superficial experience – but perhaps that is what social media is all about.To 12-01-13.

Roger Clarke 

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