Are You Alice: A New Wonderland Tale - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Permafrost Theatre Collective)

Photo credit: Jody Christopherson

'Are You Alice: A New Wonderland Tale’ is an astounding show. It looks at how Alice questions her sense of womanhood, identity, and self-acceptance when she enters Wonderland. It ‘repurposes’ passages to suggest new situations where these themes come into play.

The cast brilliantly evoke Wonderland’s confusing atmosphere. There are several Alice’s on stage at once. Each are simultaneously different and similar. They ask each other ‘Are you Alice?’ The cast play a variety of different characters throughout. This invokes an uncertainty of whether it is the responsibility of the worrying creatures of Wonderland or on Alice to provide a sense of certainty about anything.

They produce a dynamic soundscape throughout, using their voices, bodies and props. Soon, they meld together to form the Jabberwocky, a terrifying and enigmatic being. They create its clicking, hissing and whispering sounds. They provide rhythms for the scenes, stamping and swirling and bouncing balls. In one scene, Alice goes to a ‘mad’ dinner party with the Mad Hatter and March Hare, who continuously recite riddles like ‘Why is a raven like a writing desk?’ The cast repeat the recitations with dances for each character that go along with them, getting faster and reaching amazing speeds. Eventually, Alice cries out that this is the stupidest dinner party she has ever seen. 

The portrayals of Alice are primarily that of adult women. This is a convincing and eloquent argument that Alice’s questions are ones people can have at any age, and adulthood isn’t always a time of certainty. During the play, one Alice withdraws from the others, saying she doesn’t want to be part of the others’ dream any more. She doesn’t know what to think about anything in Wonderland, and is worn out. The feelings characters have in fairy tales all of a sudden don’t seem too different from real life. Fairy tales can seem so far away and impossible sometimes, and it is both reassuring and poignant that there is more overlap between our world and Wonderland than is initially apparent.

The structure of the script weaves the original story and the play’s original interpretation in seamlessly. Towards the end, Alice dances and can’t move freely, eventually lying down defeated. The other Alices move round her and put silver slippers on her feet. Now, she can dance. They defeat the jabberwocky by pulling people out of it and putting comforting things around them, like scarfs. In the end, Jabberwocky is still heard in the background but Alice finds out that she can be both part of someone else’s dream and have her own. One Alice is left on the stage, and her face is full of emotions that somehow don’t conflict any more. She recites some of ‘Jabberwocky’: ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves…’ She is both scared and excited to learn more about the world.

I was crying walking down the street after this show. Everything about it is excellent. 

Verdict: ★★★★★

‘Are You Alice: A New Wonderland Tale’ runs till August 26 at C Viva, George Street.

By James Sullivan


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