NODA Review – Alice In Wonderland

NODA review for The Nomads production of

Alice In Wonderland

Director: Graham Botterill
Musical Director: Stephen Fitton
Choreographer: Samantha Potten

This lively adaptation of Alice in Wonderland brought back wonderful childhood memories. Skilfully adapted, and peppered with jokes and original song lyrics, by Graham Botterill, it was great fun from start to finish.
The Nomads have their own ‘state of the art’ theatre with fly tower, revolving stage with two trap doors, and tiered seating. It’s modern, airy and comfortable. The new bar is spacious and is decorated with a multitude of posters of past productions. The audience for this show could partake of a special ‘Drink Me’ potion – with or without alcohol – which of course added to the fun, and was delicious!
The A4 programme sported a wonderful picture of the White Rabbit, good Directors’ Notes,
information on the Nomads and their youth group, the Nomes, a piece on NODA, and
comprehensive cast profiles.

Beautiful scenery, brightly lit to depict a sunny day, reminiscent of a Gertrude Jekyll herbaceous border, was provided by Lorraine Landon and Diane Skeel. We also had an impressive noble residence for the Duchess and a palace scene for the court case. Projections for a sea view and a woodland backdrop with mushrooms were fun. But the amazing video projections for the ‘falling down the rabbit hole’ scene, and the final tumbling cards, complete with the Red Queen’s face, were very impressive indeed. Philip James came up trumps there. Props were interesting too, from the astonishing ‘growing’ table in the Drink Me scene, to the flamingo croquet mallets, the maypole to the caterpillar’s hookah pipe. Lighting was good throughout.

Makeup was excellent, but the costumes were a delight to the eye. Lots of use was made of half
masks for the various creatures, which were very well done. The amazing creations for the
caterpillar, gryphon and mock turtle were fabulous. The Tea Party trio of March Hare, Mad Hatter and Dormouse were also very finely turned out. One should never underestimate the importance of inventive makeup and costumes in a performance such as this, they added greatly to audience enjoyment here.

This could be best described as a play with music. The music played a very important role, and was well chosen. The opener was Windmills of Your Mind, which seemed very appropriate for the opening scene with the Caterpillar, Cheshire Cat and White Rabbit. Many of the lyrics were re-written to suit the play, eg Run Rabbit Run, and If You Go Out in the Wonderland, but some were original creations from the adaptor and director Graham Botterill, such as the Caterpillar Song. On the other hand, the Lobster Quadrille from the book was set to music. All very inventive, all caused a chuckle or two, and all put very well together by Musical Director Steve Fitton. Dancing accompanied the music on various occasions too, with good choreography by Samantha Potten. This was a well-crafted production and well thought out. Every little thing from the book was here and done in a masterful way, this I feel was quite a feat. The famous scene after Alice had fallen down the rabbit hole, where she found the Drink Me bottle was brilliant. I was wondering in advance how the Nomads would tackle the croquet scene, or the tea party, and was delighted by both.

The young people all acted, danced and sang, very well – a tribute to the good training they are
receiving with the Nomes, I assume. The whole ensemble was good. Daisy Wiggins, the Alice on the night we attended, was charming and played her role both with wide-eyed innocence, yet rising frustration as the perplexing story progressed. The White Rabbit (Alice Baron) was sparky and in good voice, especially for her ‘Dream the Impossible Dream’, which constituted the finale. The irascible and erudite Caterpillar was played to perfection by Steve Fitton, in his splendid costume, puffing away at his hookah pipe, giving out his sound advice to Alice in his fine song. The haughty Duchess (Hannah Jordan) and the cook (Samantha Potten) flounced or pranced about the stage, clutching the baby or the pepper pot respectively, shocking poor Alice, even more so when she saw that the baby had turned into a pig. What a bizarre imagination Lewis Carroll had! The madness continued of course as Alice came across the Tea Party, and met the very rude March Hare and Mad Hatter, with the ever sleepy Dormouse. Millie Littlewood played this little put-upon creature very well, and very amusingly. The partnership of John Want as the Hatter and Stuart Tomkins as the Hare was a great piece of casting, and these two excelled in their zany roles – they would make a fine comedy double act. This brought us nicely to the interval, where we were able to enjoy our ‘Drink Me’ cocktails.
The curtain rose onto the beautiful scene of the Red Queen’s garden, with 3 gardeners painting the white roses red, to the jolly tune of ‘Painting the Flowers with Sunshine’. The croquet scene was thrilling and intriguing with everybody milling about with their flamingo croquet mallets. Here, of course, we met the exceedingly frightening and totally bizarre Red Queen, played fiercely and convincingly by Moyra Brookes, together with her meek and mild husband the King, more about him later. First, the Queen got rid of the Duchess, then as the croquet game progressed, everybody else, with her cries of ‘Off with his/her/their head(s)!’ The Cheshire Cat (Sophie Johnstone), who was a clever video projection up in the tree, was a calming influence, as it reassured Alice that everyone in Wonderland was mad, including Alice!
The lugubrious Mock Turtle (Matthew Weaver) sported the most amazing costume and make-up, as did also the Gryphon (a second role for Steve Fitton), and they gave us a fine rendering of the Lobster Quadrille. Having been reassured in a way by the tearful Mock Turtle, Alice is nevertheless still totally confused as he talks about lessons getting ever shorter because they lessen. There follows finally the ever odder court scene, where Alice finds herself suddenly and bizarrely called to the witness box, having hoped that she might, at last, meet some logic and sense there.

Great performance throughout by Alice, as she dealt with all these frustrations and madnesses
throughout the play, mirroring the audience’s emotions. Puzzlement, rage, disbelief, exasperation, one felt for the girl! Murray Stephen, the King, gave a marvellous rendering of a specially written song ‘Monarch of the Wonderland’ to the tune of one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s patter songs, was it the one about the Modern Major General? Great fun!
Alice came to, awakening from her dream, in her own garden again, and we were treated to a grand finale with the White Rabbit’s brilliant ‘To Dream the Impossible Dream’, with the whole ensemble joining in.

A wonderful evening of joy, fun and cleverness (that last referring to the special effects, the
costumes, the songs, the casting). Graham Botterill not only wrote so much of it, including many of the song lyrics but made a great job of directing this somewhat complex undertaking. A man of many talents! And now I fully intend to reread Alice for the first time in about 60 years!

Pauline Surrey

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