Actor Abby Wain was so enchanted by Lewis Carroll’s magical world as a child that her parents thought they should have named her Alice.
So for her the chance to play the character on stage in her home town was a dream come true and she certainly made the most of the opportunity in Derby Theatre’s Christmas production.
There is no question that the talented young actor was the star of the show. She gave a remarkably energetic and passionate performance which must have delighted director Sarah Brigham. Abby’s aerial silks dancing, used to portray Alice falling down the rabbit hole, was stunning.
The whimsical world of fantasy that is Alice In Wonderland was adapted for the Derby stage by Mike Kenny, who has given it a clever, contemporary twist by framing it in the modern world where an anxious Alice frets about looming school exams.
As Carroll says in his book “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality,” and Alice finds herself trying to discover who she is in a magical world of her own.
After falling down the rabbit hole she discovers a Wonderland in all its nonsensical glory, where the creatures she encounters mirror the people in her reality world – Mr Buck her time-sensitive teacher becomes the White Rabbit, her overworked mother the Duchess, the haughty head teacher the Queen of Hearts and her laid back school friend Harry the Mad Hatter.
Kenny has given us all the curious characters we love from the story and included key scenes such as the tea party, the croquet match and the trial. In addition to the lines and rhymes from Carroll we have new poetry from the writer and original songs and music from composer Ivan Stott.
The revolving stage came into its own as Alice moved from one curious situation to another on the inventive set designed by Neil Irish and Brigham’s direction and choreography of the cast was faultless.
Most of the cast were performing at the theatre for the first time and hopefully we will see many of them again in the future.
Joanna Brown, who played the Queen of Hearts, was brimming with confidence – possibly aided by the magnificent costume she was gifted and Dominic Rye was an entertaining Mad Hatter, who the team kitted out in a Tartan theme once it was discovered he could play the bagpipes.
However it was Keshini Misha, who played the Caterpillar, Cheshire Cat and Alice’s elder sister in the real world, who stood out from the rest for me. The savvy young actor oozed oodles of enthusiasm and I am sure she will be back on the city’s stage.
The rest of the cast were John Holt Roberts as Tweedle Dee and the King of Hearts; Elizabeth Eves, Duchess and Mum; Paula James, Tweedle Dum and March Hare; Jack Quarton, White Rabbit and Mr Buck and Helena Rimmer, Dormouse and Dora.
The Young Company are T’yanna Asafu-Adjei, Emma Balderston, Hanna Bricklebank, Lotty Bricklebank, Scarlett Brittan, Keisha Ghai, Joshua Gill, Thomas Hathaway, Christopher Johnson, Emmy Jones, Ben Pimperton, Daniel Pimperton, Holly Pridmore, Rene Stanley, Ryan Vaughan, Lottie Venskus, Eva Waller and Roxy Wright.
Lighting was by Emma Jones, casting by Kay Magson, the audio visual designer was Barret Hodgson, choreographer for The Lobster Quadrille was Kitty Winter, the aerial silks specialist was Gareth Bailey and the resident assistant director Lekan Lawal.
The show can be seen at Derby Theatre until January 7. For ticket details go to http://www.derbytheatre.co.uk