Review: Alix in Wundergarten @ The Other Room, Porter's
difficult/stage - Alix in Wundergarten
The Other Room, Porter's
Thursday 3rd December 2015
There have been emerging festivities for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll, as we see the 150th anniversary of its first publication. As The Other Room continues their highly successful second season, an unusual adaption of this story has been created, in an event we are not to forget in a hurry...
Radio plays can be the stuff of comedy gold (you only need to watch the episode of Frasier called Ham Radio to know this). Here are four characters who mill around the stage, keen to begin their recording. To my bemusement, an usher is insisting we walk through a gate onto the stage (at least one audience member declined). Passing through, you land on a cat's litter tray containing squeaky toys. I'm greeted by Nick, miming to me to buy his new CD, then I'm kissed on both cheeks by Gael, as I remark "How European!". Plenty of surreal elements here: the deck chair gate, the Dali lobster hanging on the wall, gaudy Christmas decorations and a general sense of predicament and menace.
We await the arrival of Fabian, the technician. He hurtles through the door in a blaze of tardy anxiety. Keen for the actors to stick to the original Alice script, the following events detail a decent into a fever dream, then emerging as a nightmare. Each of these characters enclose depraved and exposing elements of themselves, as this absurdist piece continues its momentum. The detail in how actors find quibbles in a script and how they can be enhanced, results in the piece somehow turning into a convoluted, Cold War update of the children's story. Hence, Alix in Wundergarten...
The actors here each added their own mark to the story. Richard Elfyn as Nick is playing the experienced actor, bordering on a thespian. Through many contradictions and weird personality traits, he delivers a severe role, which is an integral part of the show. Louisa Marie Lorey playing Elin-Rose is the budding Swansea actress, keen to begin the recording. Her Alice is lifeless and very Welsh, adding to the many laughs delivered by the audience throughout the night. Arthur Hughes as Toby is the RADA trained performer, who is not keen on Nick's acting tips. A few hurtful remarks abut Toby's withered hand had the audiences gasp in disbelief, thought the play is content in its handling of disability.
As Gael (or Gail as Fabian often calls him), Dean Rehman is a bit cocky and manic at times. He gave me very dirty looks as I tried not to laugh too hard at the saccharine message from a mechanical Santa, he demanded be played more than once. In his Fabian, Francois Pandolfo is the strict, gay Russell Brand/Jesus prototype. His dealing of the actors meltdowns, results in his own and this is beyond funny, sitting in his little booth with a vacant, incensed look. He is also the writer of the show and has created a totally hilarious piece with many moments of "what the hell just happened?!?!"
As the play implies, Alice in Wonderland has been done to death (Cardiff will see Unsuk Chin's opera version in 2017). Like with other children's stories, we all think we know know these works, even if we haven't read them. The over familiarity here transports us into our own rabbit hole of disturbing remarks, bizarre imagery and a comprehensive guide egos of actors.
A surreal, seasonal treat.
Rating: 5 Stars
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