Alice in Wonderland
Chris Abbott | 13 Jan 2019 11:52am
Quay Players are a young and enthusiastic company with a loyal following, allowing them to fill the 400 seats of the Greenwood Theatre near London Bridge – no easy feat. They present a pantomime and a musical each year, and this year’s panto was Alice in Wonderland.
With more than 30 in the cast, the large number of parts in this script were clearly an asset, although Alice is always an unlikely pantomime, and this was really more of a play with music anyway. Despite the way in which the story is told through a series of meetings – “a jamboree of vignettes” as Director Mark Smith describes it in the programme – this was a clear retelling which kept the audience involved throughout.
Musical numbers were accompanied by an excellent five-piece band led by MD Rachel Murphy, and in a real orchestra pit. Choreographer Tim Watson wisely worked to the strengths of his cast and helped to lift the ensemble numbers, and the more upbeat choices such as the closing number worked very well.
This is a company with a strong background in musical theatre but some of the cast really understood the different approach needed for panto. Foremost among these was the duo of Lauren Breese and Julianne Palmer as Dum and Dee, confident, engaging and welcomed by the audience each time they appeared. They know that it is not enough to speak to the audience, you also have to create a believable character, which both of them did.
Sarah Jefferies made a suitably villainous Duchess, stalking around the stage imperiously. In the absence of a traditional boy-girl romance to follow, it was largely left to the White Rabbit, an appropriately timid Matt Brighton, and Lucinda Kingham as an engaging and well-sung Alice, to carry the narrative. The Cheshire Cat of Laura Sanderson was very successful and funny, appearing and re-appearing in the auditorium.
Acting everyone else off the stage however, although only appearing in the second act, was Oscar Deniham as the Queen of Hearts, striding past the rest of the cast and making instant contact with the audience, and with a new costume for each entrance. It was more of a drag than a Dame performance, but that was probably the best approach for the character.
Where the show was less successful was the visual aspect. It is significant, I think, that the performers mentioned above had clear and colourful costumes, although mostly without the exaggeration usually found in panto. Many of the rest of the cast, however, were dressed for a different kind of show – some nice touches but all very subtle. In a theatre as big as this, there is need for big colourful costumes.
There was no credit for Design or Costume in the programme; had the cast perhaps been responsible for their own costumes? That might explain the wide variety of responses. This is also the only panto I have been to this year with no set to speak of, most of it being played against a series of black tabs with some dim projections, although a couple of windows and paper-chains were flown in at one point. This was particularly disappointing in a theatre with facilities for flying; panto is surely about colour and spectacle, at least as far as resources allow.
However, the audience enjoyed the show and it was a nice touch for the cast to meet them in the foyer after the performance. Quay Players will present Bring It On this summer and, in quite a coup, have announced they will be one of the first amateur groups to present Shrek the Musical in Summer 2020.
- : admin
- : 12/01/2019