Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Excellent performances from an unimaginably cohesive ensemble make Your Alice a mesmerizing theatrical experience. Fans of the novel will enjoy this new, if dark, take, while those less interested in Carroll will appreciate the current of psychodrama that roils beneath its surface.
When the audience enters the Emerald Theatre, the ensemble of Your Alice is already set in a living tableau, and the spell is cast: this is not going to be an ordinary Fringe show. What takes place over the course of the next hour is one of the most striking shows on the Fringe this year, which draws you entirely into its world, much like Charles Dodson (aka Lewis Carroll) does to Alice Lidell in the play.
The show centers on the rather unsettling relationship between Dodson and his prepubescent muse Alice, the centerpiece for his Alice in Wonderland. She is a child, and he is tortured by his unnatural obsession with her, which manifests quite literally in the nightmarish spectres from his books. We jump between recreation of the book and dramatization of real life events, suggesting what parallels Dodson may have been tracking in Miss Liddel’s real life, and what impulses he was representing in his characters. How much of what’s represented is based on real fact, it’s hard to say, but as a theatrical exploration, the journey is utterly riveting.
With the exception of lighting (which is also well-executed), the entire show is created solely by the ensemble, including soundscaping, sound effects, and music both beautiful and cartoonishly mad. Flawless makeup and elaborate costumes along with effective use of minimal but well-chosen set dressing easily transport the black stage from boat to Wonderland, to reality and back down the rabbit hole.
The necessary amount of zaniness expected of a show about Alice is present, but done in an elegant and understated way. Often it’s tempting to spin out into garish orgies of mania that lose all semblance of a narrative arc where Carroll adaptions are concerned– this gets old very quick. But given the sobering backbone of the show, the mania never gets out of check, and we are often quickly brought back to Dodson’s pained reality. All actors are immensely skilled at pulling focus when required by story and immediately blending back into the background once their moment has passed, keeping the show flowing smoothly from start to finish.
While the actors playing Alice and Dodson are excellent during their frequent, intimate stage time, every single actor in the ensemble shines as a cog in the well-oiled machinery of this show. The wry Chesire Cat, who doubles as a virtuosic pianist, the hypnotically sensual caterpillar, and of course the Queen of Hearts, snapping between a very sensible, realistic Mrs. Liddel, mother to Alice, and the larger-than-life villain: all were phenomenal. Not to mention the perfect, frequent comic timing peppered throughout by various members of the cast.
The entire production – writing, direction, design, ensemble- is an impressive feat of theatre that both entertains and pulls at your heart strings. It will draw you in and force you to think carefully about the nature of love and relationships, creativity and inspiration, and when and where this line can and should be drawn.