Alice in Wonderland devised by Poltergeist is an original, lurid take on the classic. On the tube, Alice and her Mum wait on the platform after a Christmas shopping spree. An argument ensues and suddenly Alice gets transported to a zany, alternate dimension of the London underground, meeting strange characters at every turn. She explores the world with confusion and wonder as she tries to return home, before becoming embroiled in the problems in her new environment. It is magically creative in the way it transforms some mundane aspects of tube life into strange, absurd characters.
All of the odd characters created a coherently bizarre world tied together by effective, energetic multi-roling. Rabbit (Khai Shaw) stresses as he rushes to his corporate job. Tortoise (Rosa Garland) is a toy that has been forgotten and left on the tube. Dee and Dum are football fanatics, who are either making bets or playing. District and Circle are the Queen’s guards, kept under her power by threats of maintenance. A virtual cat (Will Spence) is revealed to be a computer specialist who hides at the end of the tube. The Queen (Toyin Ayedun-Alase) comes across as sassy and power hungry but beneath her exterior, she cares for the passengers but struggles to drive the train. Nkhanise Phiri plays a fantastic Alice, capturing a strong sense of naivety, earnestness and the boldness of youth. The dynamic between Phiri and Ayedun-Alase was truthful and sincere, giving the story its drive.
The set designed by Shankho Chaudhuri featured two rows of tube seats with spaces between them. Adverts hung high overhead and tube lights were on a panel suspended from the ceiling. The use of lighting by Rajiv Pattani and the physicality directed by Jack Bradfield brought the set to life as Alice jumped from carriage to carriage. Surround sounds designed by Alice Boyd created the echoey, vast feel of the tube.
The writing was filled with puns, running gags and cleverly integrated technological aspects like phones and apps into this adaptation. Like the original, a moral becomes clear as Alice discovers they must break the loop and overcome their fears. Alice re-enters her world, transformed and more conscientious of others. The comedy of the familiar and the inventiveness of this production make this a wonderfully unique Christmas show.
Playing until 31st December, https://brixtonhouse.co.uk/shows/alice-in-wonderland/
Reviewer: Riana Howarth
Reviewed: 7th December 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★