APRIL 2022 | Volume 214
Actress Anna Cummer’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, presented by Calgary’s Alberta Theatre Projects at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre, is notable for many reasons: its inclusion of all the story’s best-known characters and nearly all its major scenes using only three actors; its Chinese surtitles; and most of all, its extraordinary kaleidoscopic design. Under Haysam Kadri’s sometimes frantic direction, Alice’s journey unfolds like a fever dream.
Hanne Loosen’s sets and costumes are literally fantastic. The Queen of Hearts/King of Hearts combo alone is worth the ticket price. Mobile set pieces, puppets, instant costume changes, and elaborate backdrops allow for quick transitions between wonderland’s many surreal worlds. Jamie Nesbitt’s projections are equally remarkable. I could have sworn I saw a real pink flamingo crossing the stage. Alexandra Prichard’s lighting provides some magical shadowing, too.
While Sarah Roa is Alice throughout the show, Natascha Girgis and Graham Percy play all the other characters: the caterpillar and white rabbit, March hare and mad hatter, Queen of Hearts and more. Their performances are impressive, transitions slick, and physical comedy often very funny.The problem is that the show seems to be operating in two very different theatrical worlds for different audiences. Roa plays Alice as if for children’s theatre, with a clearly articulated gestural performance. Girgis and Percy’s mile-a-minute vaudeville style with Carroll’s sophisticated dialogue and bizarre characters demands adult comprehension. The problem is built into Cummer’s adaptation and perhaps magnified by Kadri’s direction. Ultimately, the show may be too childish for adults and too adult for kids. And a little too small for Gateway’s big mainstage.
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