Not Cricket Productions
Underbelly – White Belly
Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been the subject of more adaptations than I could count, with four shows based on it in this year’s Fringe programme alone. As a novel bathed in nonsense, fantasy and imagination, it provides myriad opportunities to explore new ways of staging it and bringing the madcap tea party, the sneezing duchess and her porcine child, the mock turtle, and the Queen of Hearts’ infamous croquet game to life. Adapted and directed by Kate Stephenson, Not Cricket Productions’ approach is a fairly traditional one, taking in most of the main parts of the story and presenting them in a recognisable manner, with Alice’s blue dress, the white rabbit’s waistcoat and the Cheshire cat’s lingering grin. However, taking this faithful approach with only an hour long show does lead to a production that feels rushed and underdeveloped.
From the very start, the direction and performance of the piece seems frantic and hurried; a whistle-stop tour of the plot. The rapid leaps from scene to scene, without any of them truly having the chance to develop, mean that the audience is left to fill in gaps or expand on brief exposition. While this is possible (though not ideal) for an older audience member who may know the story, for the young audience it is aimed at it could be confusing, and leave a patchy impression of a classic story. This frenetic pacing is exacerbated by performances that begin and remain at a high, overwrought level that not only unbalances the emotional energy of the piece, but results in lines being lost in the speed of their delivery.
Fitting in with Carroll’s vivid and varied childlike world, the costume and prop designs were, though simple and makeshift (with pink umbrellas as flamingos, an old bathtub as the mock turtle’s shell, and some lanterns to denote the Cheshire Cat), effective in conveying the idea of a child’s imaginative world. Taken on its own, this is a strong point of the production, but added to the direction and performances as described before, there were certain points at which the combination gave the show a disjointed air.
Overall this production tries to do too much and overstretches, including introducing musical numbers that fall flat, audience interaction that distracts by overlapping with onstage action, and aesthetic ideas that are not followed through on. Though it presents interesting and promising ideas, Alice in Wonderland feels like a production that has been put on stage while still in a workshop state.
Alice in Wonderland runs at Underbelly, Cowgate, until 27th August.