This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.
This compact staging above a pub features Alice stumbling into a shop, ending up going through a shapeshifting door that debates with itself and into wonderland. The usual suspects of major characters are all present in this stripped-down adaptation by Richard Stratton that retains the most entertaining and memorable episodes of the original. The play has also kept two of the original poems in a sort of the greatest hits of Alice In Wonderland.
After a high-energy start, there is a drop in momentum towards the middle, even though the running time is only a short fifty minutes. The venue being a room above a pub means space is at a premium and exiting and entering a scene can be problematic. But this ingeniously directed production by Ellie Pitkin showcases all the theatrical tricks one can imagine.
The Cheshire Cat popping out from the wall, and characters appearing from all nooks and crannies of the room, helped by the cast of eight who can easily distract and divert attention, injecting a sense of theatrical magic into the proceedings. Simple use of lights and music effectively set up the atmosphere. The scene changes are smooth and somehow setting up the tea party set manages to turn into a bona fide comedic scene in itself.
Little touches abound such as the shopkeeper with a massive behind which fits with the charming rough and ready costumes and props. The best of which is a caterpillar outfit made with a sleeping bag with washing gloves stuck on.The cast throws itself into the roles with Emily Rae as the earnest Alice who is just on the right side of brattishness. The double act of Alexander Pankhurst and Liam Fleming as soldiers and the Tweedles is a highlight.
Dean Brammall has a great but short scene as the camp and curt Flowers as well as the underdeveloped Mad Hatter, though the blame is probably on Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.This is the second production Blackshaw Theatre is putting on for the Wandsworth Fringe 2014. And it seems there is as much talent as their work rate from Blackshaw on the evidence of this resourceful and clever production.