Edinburgh Fringe 2011
A young theatre company perform one of the all time classics with verve but without spectacle and a high degree of technical ability struggle to fully engage. Not without charm or ability it is a bare exploration of a text which could do with pep and verve for their target audience. Without set but some good costumes this showcases some ability which experience will elevate.
The structure of the piece with an older Alice inviting us in to the story and narrating thereafter works well as a structure. The text is rich and illuminating and the young cast understand this well. The only problem may be that the dense literary richness of the text comes from another age and the target audience may struggle to engage as fully as is needed. The young cast perform to their abilities whilst there is minimal staging and not really a through thought as to design. The costumes give us enough clues to match the characters thus allowing easy reference.
The production values match the experience of this young ensemble though you get the impression that they could push themselves further. It doesn’t add a great deal to the development of children’s theatre though perhaps that is not the point as it does entertain after a fashion and show us glimpses of the potential this company may have for the future.
I found the show to be one where I could see potential rather than celebrate the excellence of the product on show. I felt that the lack of real staging was an issue as children’s theatre needs either spectacle or some form of real energy to keep a young audience entertained. This company could muster neither yet they had a charm and fervour that was engaging for me. Their understanding of the text shone through and was perhaps one of the reasons I was more forgiving. Very often young companies opt for shocking and “in yer face” attempts to gain notoriety rather than experience. This was a more engaging attempt at a difficult genre.
Children’s theatre, however, can be entirely unforgiving and they may find audiences more apt to wriggle and squirm than sit straight laced and attentive. The audience that was with me had a smattering of younger members and they did not giggle as much as the adults. Eventually they began to get restless and the lack of a big bang meant they continued to head towards boredom. Thankfully the show was short enough they never reached their destination!
Design brings with it engagement and fascination and bringing this exquisite text to the Fringe could be inspired if the design concepts that are within the book are exercised. There are some fantastic characters and not using them within a crazy backdrop can be distracting for the actors or a springboard to their triumphs. I am still unsure why one poor actor had to sit on his haunches at the beginning to be the tree… special mention to the red queen and also young Alice but really it would be unfair to mention them as being far apart from the abilities of the others. They did however pick up both pace and impact. The older Alice was also engaging though a younger person playing a much older person needs far more than make up and the voice to convince. It is here that I thought it demonstrated more potential than anything else. I willed a better performance but we got a young group’s attempt rather than a mature product.
If you are looking to support young performers at the Fringe then this is a show you should see. If you are looking for an hours worth to entertain the kids on a wet day then you may leave a little disappointed. Though they will understand the text as these young guys do but it scrapped a 3 for enthusiastic potential rather than mature execution.