The Garden Suburb Theatre (GST) is a friendly and welcoming amateur theatre company.

We are a registered charity promoting involvement in the Dramatic Arts in North London. We welcome anyone who wishes to learn more about drama, either by participating in or coming to watch one of our diverse programme of shows.

Review

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is an 1865 novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world (Wonderland) populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as children. It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre, and its narrative course and structure, characters and imagery have been enormously influential in both popular culture and literature, especially in the fantasy genre.

In 1932, with Clemence Dane, Richard Addinsell wrote the incidental music for the Broadway adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.

The first act tells of Alice's adventures in Wonderland, of the people and creatures she meets there, including following the White Rabbit to a delightful, entertaining world of childhood fantasies. Alice journeys into a world of talking animals, comic royalty, the Mad Hatter's frantic tea party, and a baby that turns into a pig! The finale has Alice watching a trial, but she suddenly finds herself the accused!

The second act tells of her escape into the Looking Glass where she finds the rest of Lewis Carroll's well-loved and memorable characters.

The play gives a modern view to an old classic, where nonsense makes quite good sense.

Stage Presentation

The set was beautifully painted and was successfully enhanced by the back projection of the chequered path and garden. All the props successfully portrayed the changes to the size of Alice. The green umbrellas portraying the half painted white rose bushes were inspired. The Mad Hatter's tea party table blended beautifully with the flat, which depicted the long table with cups and plates and food on. The toadstool magnificently took centre stage as it deserved. The chessboard and large Knight and Castle were superb in the second act.

The puppets were superb; from the rabbits to the sleeping King; from the resplendent caterpillar on the toadstool to the crying baby turning into the pig; from Humpty Dumpty on his wall, to the wonderful pink flamingos.

Meticulous attention was paid to detail in achieving a symbolic setting, which worked incredibly well in the play. The hedge upstage was cut into the shape of chess pieces; the pool of water depicted by the green and glittering long cloth and dry ice gave a magical feel.

The lighting worked effectively, especially showing Alice's changes in size. The black gauze which was lit for the Cheshire Cat's face was also extremely effective.

The music was played on a recorded piano, or harpsichord, which worked well, as the Musical Director (and pianist) could have been a distraction to the action and fantasy wonderland that was being revealed on the stage. The singing was of an extremely high standard and the diction perfect in most songs. The drum sequence with the pots and pans was exceptional and worthy of 'Stomp' status.

The costumes were exceptional, and almost of a professional quality. There was a wonderful traditional feel to the production and this was enhanced by all the costumes. The design of Alice's costume was a true replication of what we think of as the original design, in her blue dress and striped stockings. The white rabbit was impeccable in his green jacket, orange cravat and black and white chequerboard waistcoat, and all the creatures were picture-perfect, including all those taking part in the race; and the Cheshire Cat, the Mouse, the Dormouse, the Gryphon, the Lion and the Unicorn - and the Mock Turtle was divine. The Fish, Frog Footman and the Duchess were superbly dressed, whilst the Queen of Hearts with all the cards and King were also very good. There was a very nice contrast between them and the Red and White Queens in simpler and plainer costumes, which were mirrored by the plain colours for the Pawns. The March Hare looked great in his green and white polka dot waistcoat. The Mad Hatter in his traditional dress with a flowered cravat was truly sublime whilst Tweedledum and Tweedledee looked brilliant in their oversized yellow trousers, blue tops with large white collars and gold buttons. The White Knight's armour and helmet were good, however, the cream jeans were a little out of keeping with the style of the other costumes.

Production

The production opened effectively with the tabs closed and characters punting down the aisles towards the stage, and puppets being brought to life by cast members dressed in black.

The cast used all areas of the stage and auditorium entirely, and when moving to another area this was always done in character.

The cast worked extremely well together, with great energy and all chorus/choral work accomplished in unison. Everyone remained in character throughout, and achieved different mannerisms to depict different characters when doubling up. The chorus were good at showing the character of the creature they were playing and stayed consistent to that characterisation in whatever they were doing. They were always a delight, for example in the race - the Duck and Crab stood out. The entire chorus were a delight with lovely voices and beautiful smiles. This was a well-rehearsed and confident performance. The use of the stage was excellent and in the main very interesting; at times some wonderful tableaus were created by the ensemble, for example with the Mock Turtle, Gryphon and Alice, and during the scene with the Lion and the Unicorn. The choreography of the dance and choral movements were superb and there were great moments of physical theatre throughout the play. At times this was, perhaps, a little slow, particularly in Act Two during the mirror work and the movement on the chessboard that did affect the pace, nonetheless it added to the verbal narrative, and incorporated many different physical and visual elements.

All the songs are complex and, I'm sure, are difficult to accomplish; relying on good clear diction for the audience to understand fully the prose, but this was achieved extremely well. It was obvious that many hours had been put into musical rehearsals, and it paid off beautifully.

The pace at times dipped, for example the croquet match; it looked superb with the hedgehogs and beautiful flamingo puppets, but the cues needed to be picked up more quickly. In Act Two, there was sometimes a little hesitation between scenes which affected the pace. The use of dance moves and music during scene changes worked well but sometimes these needed to be a little quicker. This could possibly have been addressed by more cast members bringing on set and props.

The puppeteers and chorus holding props such as doors or the small table and dressed in black, were not only visible but used as part of the action, with wonderful smiling faces which again added to the feeling of being in a world 'not quite of our own - a wonderland'. The Caterpillar was a delight and all the sets of arms were choreographed beautifully, especially in rubbing the ash off his stomach.

Acting

Charles Dodgson/Mock Turtle/White Knight - Adam Sutcliffe

As the Mock Turtle this actor was extremely impressive; from his first entrance where he took whinging to another level, to his discomfort in the lobster song. The actor had a wonderful, deliberate and well thought out delivery of the 'Turtle soup song' in which he looked very comfortable. He made a memorable exaggeration of 'p' at the end of 'soup' and the final 'ooh' was superb. As the White Knight, he fell off his horse incredibly well. He looked every inch "a knight of yore" in his armour and large moustache.

Rev. Duckworth/Father William/Gryphon/Tweedledee - Carl Underhill.

As Tweedledee, and with the obvious partnership with Tweedledum, there was great consistency between the characterisation and the sulky faces. This is choral speaking with nowhere to hide; just two people working in unison together which the actor thoroughly achieved.

As the Gryphon, he enjoyed, nay immersed himself in, the yawn well, with a deep voice and a lovely delivery on "soles and eels" making comment and reference to shoes. This was an effective and delightful characterisation.

Alice - Tempeste Hepenstall-Brown

This actress moved well and gave a natural performance, which was an effective and confident interpretation of the role. She had good pace, vocal range and tone. The actress looked every inch the part with a lovely smile and excellent facial expressions, especially when the Gryphon was talking about the whiting. She was so expressive at showing shock. The actress was also lovely in her last few yards on the chess board to become Queen.

Prima/The Duchess/Walrus - Vanessa Williams

This actress had a good singing voice and moved well. She was effective in all the roles; showing well the exasperation of the Duchess with the crying baby; and the Walrus, especially when speaking in unison with the Carpenter.

Secunda/Mad March Hare - Cate Oates

The actress looked every bit the March Hare and was superb at boxing with the Teapot and Mad Hatter, at times she needed a little more variation in tone. She had good facial expressions.

White Rabbit - John Dansey

A wonderfully physical performance; twitchy and never staying still in one place. The actor needed a little stronger voice at times, however, he gave a charming character study which was nicely handled with good facial expressions.

Mouse/Seven of Spades/White Queen - Georgia Price

As the mouse, this actress looked great and maintained some lovely little 'mouse-like' gestures throughout, with clipped tones and perfect little squeaks. As the White Queen, she had a lovely lisp and gave heartfelt cries with her bleeding finger. This actress conveyed the genial and sweet nature of the White Queen well.

Caterpillar/Dormouse/Knave of Diamonds/Unicorn - Laura Brocklesbury

As the Caterpillar, this actress had a great voice and strong delivery of the text. As the Dormouse, she had a lovely twinkle but with a sleepy, almost hypnotic, facial expression when required. She had a simply charming smile, which endeared her to the audience. As the Unicorn, she had an almost regal pose and strong vocal tones with a fluid movement - arching her back just like a horse, sorry, Unicorn and looking so proud.

Frog Footman/Mad Hatter - Danielle Stagg

I believe this actress may have been a crab in the 'race' and her movements, facial expressions and characterisation were a joy to watch. As the Frog Footman, she looked extremely elegant yet portrayed the idiot very well - almost reminding us of Frank Spencer, yet making the character her own. As the Mad Hatter, she encapsulated the wide eyed, almost frantic gestures of the character. Very good indeed. She displayed great timing on the line which incorporated 'take less' and 'move up one piece'. This actress had great comedic facial expressions and timing. She was always engaging and very good at her interplay with other characters.

Fish Footman/Queen of Hearts/Lion - Gabi Maddocks

As the Queen of Hearts, this actress delivered the line "Off with their head!" very well and with great timing. She was wonderfully childish when switching from strong and stern to smiling and childlike innocence with a lovely - if disconcerting - smile. She portrayed confusion well, with again, wonderful facial expressions. Her pursed lips and lipstick painted on just in the centre reminded one of a geisha, almost doll-like. This was a good characterisation for the Lion, showing his authority with great stage presence. In the character of the Lion, she had a strong voice, which was rougher than the Unicorn and gave a nice contrast. As Fish Footman, she had a lovely shape to her legs and gave a completely contrasting characterisation to the Frog Footman.

Cook - Rosa Chalfen, Jonina Grayston-Less, Oscar Maddocks

This was great ensemble work in which these actors were totally together on delivering their lines, including "shan't".

Cheshire Cat/Red Queen - Imogen Colmans

As the Cheshire Cat, this actress had a fabulous grin and great expressions; difficult when playing just the head! This was a confident interpretation of the role, with good pace, vocal range and tone. As the Red Queen, her physical movement was very good when running with Alice; she also had great, effective movement of her eyes. She showed the more refined and distant nature of the Queen well. This actress gave a great rendition of her song and looked nice sleeping on Alice.

King of Hearts/Tweedledum/Humpty Dumpty - Mark Overall

As King of Hearts, this actor was good at donning the specs and when seeing the Queen, looking startled. He was good at reading the accusation regarding the tarts. As Tweedledum he took being sulky to a higher level and the line "Do I look pale" (with bucket on head) was delivered well. As Humpty Dumpty, he had a lovely resonance to his voice with again excellent delivery on the line, which explained difference between cravat and belt.

Executioner - Jamie Moore

This was a small but effective cameo telling us exactly what we needed to know.

Knave of Hearts/Five of Spades/Carpenter - Anjali Hall

This actress had great physicality. She wriggled wonderfully in her ropes as the captured Knave of Hearts, and was very good at speaking in unison with the Walrus.

Two of Spades - Jesse Musker

This actor looked every inch the part and endeared the audience to their character when chasing the rose bushes to paint them.

White King - John Dansey

This actor has great tone to his voice and he gave a sincere performance.

Puppet Operators - Zoe Mack, Emily Moore, Nikki Storch, Lydia Tutton

Fantastic and difficult work was accomplished by these performers, especially whilst operating the Caterpillar with excellent timing, especially when brushing ash off his tummy. The Humpty Dumpty character was also very good in the movement of the eyes, eyebrows, mouth and arms.

Junior Ensemble - Rosa Chalfen, Nina Daeschner, Freyde Fallon- Sayers, Olivia Gearson, Jonina Grayson-Lee, Zoe Mack, Oscar Maddocks, Emily Moore, Jamie Moore, Jesse Musker, Nikki Storch, Lydia Tutton, Grade Underhill, Maddie Underhill, Evie Wright

These young actors were always part of the action, were totally committed and integrated beautifully with the set and with the other characters. The singing and choral work was of an extremely high quality, and every member of the junior ensemble acted the whole time, which added to the audience's enjoyment.

Dramatic Achievement

We saw an energetic production, which emphasised the wit, riddles and comedy and had a great natural rhythm with good pace at times, particularly in Act One. The actors and puppeteers weren't afraid to engage with the audience, drawing us in to the performances.

In the programme the Director states that he 'wanted to put together a modern show that was true enough to Lewis Carroll's original intentions that he would enjoy it if he bought a ticket' and you achieved this well. We were indeed transported to Wonderland by this fine production.

Congratulations The Garden Suburb Theatre Company.

Review by Jennifer Scott-Reid

This is a review of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

The original review is here: Adjudication report from Barnet and District Peripatetic Drama Festival 2013