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Theatre Review: Alice in Wonderland ***

Scott Purvis reviews Blue Raincoat's adaptation of the classic story.

On the page and on the stage, Lewis Carroll's trippy Alice in Wonderland has been inviting audiences to tumble into its bizarre rabbit-hole for well over a century. Now, it's the turn of Ireland's exceptional Blue Raincoat theatre company to grab the Caterpillar's pipe and try to breathe new life into an all-too familiar fantasy.

Sure, Jocelyn Clarke's almost verbatim reworking of Carroll's original text delivers oft-quoted lines of utter nonsense with wit and warmth. But it all just feels too straightforward - Alice still drinks the potion and still grows to gargantuan proportions, and the piece walks through every expected scene in the pop-up picture book of the story.

Still, this near grey scale production at times feels much more human than the splattered paint pots of Disney and Burton, and the narrative of this hour-long piece unfolds with creativity in its physicality - the control of the cast's bodies and movement is often enthralling, in moments making the tension in the air thick as a white rabbit's fur, sometimes painting the scenes with lithe comedy.

The cast are exuberant. Miriam Needham's Young Alice stretches herself around the stage with all the zing of a plate of ham tarts and Sean Elliott's Queen of Hearts is sublime in its silliness. The overall effect of the noise and the nonsense is a piece of theatre which is fast-paced, fun and frenetic and shifts tones like the Mad Hatter's tea party.

Although the performances are endearing, it's hard to avoid the fact that this very short piece doesn't really contribute anything more to the Alice legend than any of its predecessors.

Runs at the Tron and the Traverse have ended.

Tags: theatre

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