Review of Theatre in the Quarter production of Alice at St Mary’s Centre Chester from 4th December to 10th January
Alice is the 2014 Christmas presentation produced by Theatre in the Quarter which is currently performing at St Mary’s Centre in Chester until 10th January. This follows on from the exceptional previous acclaimed enactments of A Christmas Carol and The Snow Queen in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
It was a pleasure to return to St Mary’s Centre this year to witness the latest festive offering of Alice by the accomplished Theatre in the Quarter based on the Lewis Carroll tour de force. St Mary’s with its wonderful gothic architecture and the inspiring introduction of a centre featured stage delivered the perfect setting for this breath-taking depiction. The pivotal location of the stage provided an excellent viewing perspective from all the various areas of the auditorium and afforded a very relaxed and welcoming family atmosphere with its close proximity to the audience as we watched this enthralling interpretation unfold.
The adaptation written by Stephanie Dale directed by Peter Leslie Wild and with music by Matt Baker provided the impeccable foundation for this noteworthy production. We were very fortunate to observe another performance involving these exceptionally gifted professionals as we explore the aspects of Wonderland combined with Through the Looking-Glass and the relationship itself between Alice Liddell and Lewis Carroll.
It was an admirable decision to present the play in the round with its inventive and metaphoric use of the stage whereby the collective stories were conveyed to the audience in the same manner as Lewis Carroll had construed them to Alice herself.
The depiction of the story itself is a very familiar one to both young and old alike which represented all the various characters from the Cheshire Cat to the Queen of Hearts all being encapsulated into this extraordinary elucidation with mind-blowing accomplishment.
The astonishing blend of music presented by Matt Baker and portrayed by the creativeness and versatility of the actors/musicians involved brought to life the magic of this enthralling innovation. It was a pleasure to observe the return of Ben Tolley as Duchess and David Edwards as Cheshire Cat/Knave of Hearts after their previous attainments in A Christmas Carol and The Snow Queen during the two preceding years of the Christmas representations.
Alice Liddell was the perfect recipient for the imagination of Lewis Carroll which is apprehended brilliantly in the diverse thinking of writer Stephanie Dale combining Wonderland with the more serious aspects of Through the Looking-Glass epitomising the changing life cycle of Alice herself.
The complexity facing Lewis Carroll played by Duncan MacInnes as Alice grows up and is no longer the captivating audience she once was is consummately transmitted as he expends his relentless energy bordering on exhaustion as he attempts to keep her entertained while she experiences the change in her own life from childhood to adolescence. His depiction of the various facets of the role from initial fulfilment in providing happiness to ultimate despair and despondency as the maturing Alice develops beyond his childhood creativity. This was an exceptional illustration of character portrayal by Duncan which was only made possible by the magnificently interpreted manuscript from Stephanie Dale at her supreme finest providing a combination of original and new material.
We are engaged through the various aspects of the story so well known to us all and with some incredible endorsements from the cast of very talented actors. Anne Riordan as Alice produced a wonderful performance incorporating the various characteristics of the role from fictitiousness to prodigious fascination with ultimate ascendancy. Sophia Hatfield as Queen of Hearts postulated the stern dominating character the part demanded with an incredible and authoritative stage presence throughout. Andrew Roberts-Palmer as Caterpillar, Ben Tolley as Duchess and David Edwards as Cheshire Cat/Knave of Hearts brought noteworthy amusement and intrigue to the production combined with their musical adeptness which added considerably to the enactment. All the troupe were ably supported by the engagement of local community actors which has become so much of a feature with Theatre in the Quarter presentations over the last few years and provides yet another example of the remarkable local talent that is on offer.
The music by Matt Baker brought this enchanting story to life as he once more provides some stunning original scores which are delightfully presented by the musician actors during this magnificent enactment.
The choreography and design by Cariad Morgan and Dawn Allsopp was a most spectacular and innovative manifestation which when combined with the astonishing and imaginative costumes and scenery exhibited throughout the performance breathed both vivacity and animation into this spectacle, revealing the fascination and veracity of this extraordinary fantasy.
The whole performance was truly magical and captivating from beginning to end under the superlative direction of Peter Leslie Wild. Alice will continue to be performed at St Mary’s Centre Chester until 10th January and provides the ideal Christmas foray for all the family to enjoy.
Andrew D Thompson
For more about the production visit website