The arrival of summer in Essex has brought with it the opportunity to take advantage of the long daylight hours and really enjoy being outdoors with friends and family. On the back of a number of previously successful outdoor events, The Minories Art Gallery in Colchester has created a programme of outdoor theatre and other events over the summer months. As my daughter (aged 4) is now discovering the joys of reading, we really wanted to take her to see the fantastic production of Alice in Wonderland by the Chameleons Web Theatre Company.
Chameleon's Web is a not for profit theatre company based in Colchester. The Company prides itself on "creating exciting, professional theatre full of energy and innovation". After a successful sell-out production of Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters in 2012, the Company turned their artistic expertise to their very own adaptation of Alice and her adventures in Wonderland for summer 2013.
Below is a selection of photographs taken on the Saturday evening performance. Although we went primarily to give my daughter the sort of experience that remains long in the memory from childhood, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it and was truly impressed by the quality of the production and the imagination that went into each scene.
As one would expect from even just a little knowledge of the stories, there is a wide range of fantastical characters to recreate in the play; before the first Act got under-way, Isobel (my daughter) was wondering how they could make the Cheshire Cat appear. As you can hopefully see from the photographs, a clever use of props ensured this was achieved with room to spare. The Victorian steampunk style with which the play starts really appeals and lends the right atmosphere to the following story - almost like a nonsense Jules Verne. Credit to Tammie Lightfoot for the adaptation and equally to Suzanne Bailey as Director.
All the expected characters are there, too many to mention here - Alice of course (Heidi Mussett), the White Rabbit (Joseph Sales), the excellent Mad Hatter (given a very twitchy persona by James Potter) My daughter's favourite was clearly the Cheshire Cat (played with an equally cheshire-like Scott Sophos). My personal favourites were Humpty Dumpty (Adam Duarte-Dias), the very deadpan caterpillar (Christopher Baalham) and the cleverly inter-woven narration from Stuart Robinson.
The clever use of simple but effective stage design was also apparent right from the start, especially the representation of Alice's constantly-changing size, but my highlights were the roses that kept changing colour and most of all, the hedgehog balls used in the flamingo croquet....oh and the Cheshire Cat of course.
Often these events are dependant on the weather but whether it was because we were fortunate in that respect or not, this imaginative adaptation was really entertaining, well-acted and and a pleasure to watch. We will be looking out for more productions by the Chameleons Web Theatre Company, and we will be returning to the Minories to watch Dracula in a few weeks time.