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

I believe that Lewis Carroll once approached Arthur Sullivan to suggest that he might set Alice to music. Though nothing ever came of the suggestion, it is interesting to speculate on what sort of piece may have resulted. This adaptation by Clemence Dane with music by Richard Adinsell is rather a patchy affair. The songs are largely unmemorable and while much of the dialogue is lifted straight from the book this does has the advantage of allowing Carroll's words to speak for themselves.

Direction by Jon Musker displayed a comprehensive understanding of the source material. Having part of the chorus leave the stage to perform on the auditorium floor was a little distracting, especially as it occurred so early in the action. Entrances and exits worked well. A nice touch was the number of heads peeping around corners at various times which greatly added to the ambiance of the piece.

Particularly good blocking for the pool of tears/caucus race and the croquet game.

Puppetry, notably the flamingos and Humpty Dumpty worked well. Good use of transformation gauze for the Cheshire Cat and a very impressive caterpillar. Alice's changes of size during the first act were amusingly portrayed and the fall down the rabbit hole was most effective in its simplicity. The court scene lacked focus in places and it may have helped to have the king and queen more centrally positioned.

The sleeping red king was very well realised. The business of removing the screen in front of him looked awkward on occasions.

Musical accompaniment was unobtrusive and the few large musical numbers were well sung with clear diction. Chorus were well drilled on stage and all appeared to be enjoying themselves. Some do need to remember to look at the audience instead of at their feet when dancing. There was an excessive amount of rhubarb during the reading of the letter in the court scene.

The stylised 'chess dance' during the second act, while not easy to follow, formed a good punctuation to the scenes.

The piece was well costumed with particularly distinctive designs for the Red and White Queens and the Mad Hatter. Good costuming also for the Duchess and the Mock Turtle. The 'non court' cards had their values on both their front and back.

Tempesta Hepenstall Brown in the title-role looked a little old for the part but made a very good Alice. I thought she captured the impetuosity of the character well and gave a good impression of wonder and awe at some of the extraordinary characters that Alice encounters. Very good reaction to the baby turning into a pig. Nicely played and well cast.

A large supporting cast, too numerous to mention individually, all worked hard to create both Wonderland and Looking Glass World.

Adam Sutcliffe did well as the author and the White Knight but his best characterisation was undoubtedly the Mock Turtle who gave a heartfelt rendering of one of the better songs in the show. Effective support from Carl Underhill as Duckworth, Tweedledee, and as a rather fine Gryphon, with hindquarters supplied by Grace Underhill.

Georgia Price provided two outstanding performances as the timid Mouse and the untidy White Queen while Gabi Maddocks, as the Queen of Hearts, commanded every scene in which she appeared and was also a most effective Fish Footman.

Perhaps the highlight of the production was the Mad Hatter's tea party with the Hatter very neatly portrayed by Danielle Stagg with solid support from Cate Oates and Laura Brokesbury as the March Hare and the Dormouse.

Vanessa Williams, as the Duchess gave a memorable performance of the song with enthusiastic support from her cooks.

Imogen Colman was an entertaining Cheshire cat and there was also a feline quality to her portrayal of the Red Queen - possibly drawing on the fact that, in the book, the Queen turns out to be a kitten. It made a nice contrast to the furious Queen of Hearts in the first act.

I also particularly enjoyed contributions from the excitable juror who had to be suppressed, the executioner and the crab in the pool of tears.

The programme was well designed with a striking front cover and a clear layout. It included some very well-reproduced rehearsal photos. Thank you for including the Noda crest.

All in all, I thought this a production which displayed a great deal of artistic imagination coupled with enthusiastic participation from the cast. I congratulate you on bringing the tales of Alice in all their complexity to such a small stage.

Many thanks for your invitation and your hospitality. I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Review by Paul Holgate

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

The original review is here: National Operatic & Dramatic Association report