On Saturday night I saw an open air production of Alice in Wonderland, staged by Off The Ground Theatre Company.

Oh dear.

Now, whilst I like the theatre, I am by no means an expert on all things theatrical so please don't think that this little review is backed up by any knowledge because it's not. It's based purely on my own opinion and my opinion is this: the show was disappointing.

I am willing to admit that my love of all things Alice might mean my expectations were unrealistically high but I think it was more than that. The play failed to hold my interest: it kicked off at 6.30pm and by 7pm I was checking my watch and being surprised at how little time had passed.
It felt disjointed and even knowing the book back to front and inside out like I do I found it very hard to follow - my friend Helen said afterwards that it would have benefitted from some kind of narrator and she is exactly right; without the glue that a narrator would have provided things seem to flounder; they jumped from scene to scene with no explanation as to how or why meaning that a lot of the genius there is in the text was just lost and you just had no idea what was happening. Several times I had to really try to figure out just exactly which point of the story we were at. The Caucus Race just seemed like 16 people running around and the scene where the White Rabbit thinks Alice is Mary Ann was just a blur. They stuck in 'The Walrus and the Carpenter' recited by a VERY random TweedleDee and TweedleDum who appeared from nowhere and served no purpose, which was odd considering that's not even from the same book (although, yes, I know it's in the Disney film) and the whole thing just felt a little bit like everybody was trying too hard to be a bit quirky when if they'd let it the story could have done the work for them. The use of modern jokes (the weakest link; CCTV; points mean prizes etc) just grated on me - if their production had been stronger then they wouldn't have needed those. Alice has stood the test of time for long enough to not need to be feebly dragged into 2011. All that combined with the poor staging and the less than great acting meant that the audience (mostly small children) grew bored well before the interval so the second half was peppered with under 5's running on and off the 'set' (a fact the cast dealt with remarkably well, to give them their dues.)

All of that said, I know it can't have been easy: trying to put on a show such as Alice with no stage, little scenery and very few props must have been a challenge, and there were elements that I thought were very clever. The way they used members of the cast dressed in black to form the rabbit hole for example was very well done, parts of it did make me laugh and it was by no means a terrible production. I just feel it didn't reach it's potential, and I wish I'd had some wine.