The curious pantomime you'd be 'mad' to miss!
There cannot be many who have never heard of the curious novel, 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'. The literary nonsense/fantasy classic was penned by Charles Lutwidge Dodgeson who adopted the nom de plume, 'Lewis Carroll'.
One 'golden afternoon' in July 1862, Charles Dodgeson and Reverend Robinson Duckworth were rowing up the Isis with the three young daughters of scholar Henry Liddell: Lorina, Edith and Alice.
On the trip, Dodgeson regaled the girls with the tall tale of a bored little girl called Alice who went looking for adventure in a mysterious new world. They , of course, loved the story and asked Mr Dodgeson to write it down for them to enjoy again and again.
Exactly 150 years after its first publication in 1865, we were tasked by Dryburn Theatrical Workshop to turn the absurd and fantastical book into a script for their next pantomime.
'What is the use of a book,' thought Alice,
'without pictures or conversation?'
The original novel and its sequel ('Through the Looking-Glass published in 1871) follow the eponymous curious girl down a rabbit hole and into a wonderful world where nothing is ever quite as it seems. A world straight from the imagination of Charles Lutwidge Dodgeson overflowing with wit, curious characters, symbolism and (perhaps oddly for a book primarily for children) mathematical satire. While seemingly perfect material for a pantomime, the story simply wouldn't translate to the stage directly. There are characters and scenes that leap from the page that are tempered by more surreal passages: i.e, in chapter six, 'Pig and Pepper', Alice saves a baby from the overbearing Duchess fearing she'll kill it. Upon rescuing it, the baby turns into a pig. Such sections were also overlooked by Disney in their 1951 animated feature version which combines events from both books. We decided to take the same approach.
Making sense of nonsense.
In 'Alice in Wonderland', Alice discovers many weird and wonderful characters on her journey and (more often than not) never sees them again. A pantomime conversely relies on meeting a small number of characters and an audience seeing them many times throughout the story. Their recurring reactions to their situation making the 'plot'. In creating an authentically 'pantomime' version, it was first decided which of the characters in the book would best fit the stock panto roles i.e. Comic, Dame, Villain, Fairy...
The dramatic aspect of a pantomime story requires a hero with a goal and a villain who will thwart their efforts while stopping at nothing to achieve an ambition of their own. Alice therefore needed a purpose. Maybe she'd lost her 'muchness' and was doubting the power of her imagination and needed to learn from the curious characters to help her on her way? And maybe the villain was the Knave of Hearts who stole the tarts as per the famous nursery rhyme?
Alice in Wonderland - the curious pantomime you'd be 'mad' to miss! premiered in Chester-le-Street, Co. Durham in January 2016 and went on to become our most popular title of that year. Alice in Wonderland is not a traditional pantomime title and that is very much to our script's merit and doubtless the key to its success. Societies love the challenge of a title they have never done and their audiences have loved the curious story brought lovingly to life with slapstick, hilarious comedy, unexpected twists and a heartfelt message about not losing your sense of wonder, your imagination or what makes you you.
"Young Alice, bored of the books with no pictures on the river bank, follows a cheeky rabbit (with terrible timekeeping) down a rabbit hole and into a place like no place on Earth...Wonderland! There she finds a world beyond her wildest dreams. But not all is well in Wonderland for it's the wicked Queen of Hearts' un-birthday party and the Knave has a plot to steal the jam tarts! With the help of the Duchess, a sassy Cheshire Cat and the maddest of Hatters, will Alice and her imagination be able to save Wonderland? And why is a raven like a writing desk?
Find out in the pantomime that'll leave you shouting "Callooh! Callay!"
Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
Thus slowly. one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out -
And now the tale is done...
Read a script sample and request a perusal copy at: www.tomwhalleypantomimes.com/aliceinwonderland
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