by Jason Booker
With a cast of over 20 people, Absolute Alice crams an awful lot in an hour. Based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the piece faithfully includes all the elements of the first book from the Mad Hatter and the Tea Party to the Lobster Quadrille, croquet with the Queen and her flamingo mallets and the Knave of Hearts and his trial. One of the flaws included the Eat Me and Drink Me potions that lead to the pool of tears – there was no real growth or shrinking effect on Alice – standing on a chair and cowering under the table are weak imitations of changing size, especially if you intend to complain to the Caterpillar about never staying the same size for long. They do also forego the visit to the White Rabbit’s house for logistical reasons. The show looks amazing due to the costumes by Audrey Marriott and Max Martin (who also adapted the script) that create a steampunk effect, decadent gothic with faces painted white, some hollowed eye makeup and lots of blacks, feathers, satin and crimson lamé. The well-paced show features lots of young performers who shine in some strong cameos: the cryptic White Rabbit who’s gone down The Hole, the delightfully drowsy Dormouse, the underutilized Narrator (who should have been given a more clear function, or been Lewis Carroll himself), a sly and slinky Cheshire Cat, the bitchy Duchess and the quietly commanding King of Hearts. Lucy Martin as Alice has an interesting take on the role, slightly jaded and sarcastic but curious, but she gets lost in the glamour of Montgomery C. Martin’s production. The show ends with a dance party instead of finding a conclusion (then again, the original book doesn’t wind up very well either) and never clearly articulates why the creators needed a new version of Alice. While there’s a strong aesthetic for the production, there isn’t a matching spin for the script or the performances to justify another adaption of everyone’s favourite LSD trip – I mean, children’s story. The title, seemingly referencing the vodka brand with the typeface used, also remains unexplained. Enjoyable and breezy, entertaining, stylish and fun, Absolute Alice might not be the best version of Carroll’s classic but it may serve as a good introduction for newcomers to the story and the newcomers in the show.