Alice in Wonderland – Sydney Coliseum Theatre (NSW)
Adapted and Directed by Penny Farrow. Bonnie Lythgoe Productions in association with Broadway Haus.
Reviewed by Bradley Roe
Sydney Coliseum Theatre, Rooty Hill
Season 4 – 6 January 2023
A whimsical and fun production for the young and young at heart that will remind you of the magic found in Wonderland
A young girl, bored with her golden afternoon, sees a hurried white rabbit in a waist coat run along the riverbank and down a rabbit hole that has never been there before. Curious, she follows the rabbit, and falls into the hole - down, down, and down further she falls, and where does she land? Wonderland of course. The story of Alice in Wonderland is filled with whimsical and magical adventure. It's a story of Mad Hatters, White rabbits, a Red Queen and of course, a curious girl that falls down into a new world. What is there not to love?
With the auditorium filling with excited young theatre goers bursting with anticipation, a light chirping bird and insect sound creeps in from the speakers, adding to the growing ambience of the theatre. You could tell that this was going to be a lot of small children's first theatrical experience, due to the wide-eyed reactions to the stage, set and theatre as they entered. I’m sure most of us remember the awe-struck feeling of our first evening at the theatre.
Photo by Ben Fon | Fon Photography
Amongst this eager atmosphere I sat down and looked at the inspired set created by the team, filled with iconic elements of the story such as a key, tea set, pocket watch, playing cards and books all floating amongst a magical haze, almost like they were falling down an endless rabbit hole. I couldn’t help but be filled with childlike excitement for what was to come.
The audience announcements being read out by a sleeping door mouse, signalled the beginning of the show. We knew this was going to be a fun filled adventure from the start, and an enthusiastic, fun, and ridiculous production of this classic tale aimed at the youngest attendees in the audience is exactly what we got. Starting with a peculiar tale of the Jabberwock, which was lost on the younger (and some of the older) audience members, it wasn’t long before we slowly entered the whimsical world of Wonderland.
The small, but mighty, ensemble had such a cavalcade of roles to play, and innumerable iconic characters to bring to life, that sometimes we lost their individuality. They showed an immense amount of enthusiasm, and silliness that enamoured a lot of the young audience. Although the jokes didn’t land on much of the audience, and reactions were at a minimum, the unstoppable ensemble did not slow down as they barrelled through classic scenes that brought us deeper and deeper into Wonderland. With a highlight of the production being the entrance of the Cheshire Cat, and the ‘punny’ dialogue of the caterpillar, the ensemble showed so much energy, so much gusto, but unfortunately fell short of providing all the magic that was needed to bring this world to life.
Alice and the White Rabbit were played with enthusiasm by the cast. The constantly curious Alice, worked hard to keep her young audience engaged, and not be upstaged by her much more energetic co-stars. The White rabbit showed us how the character grew not only in social position through costuming, and dialogue, but also in stature from puppetry, to costuming and back again. However, the Red Queen stole the show with her judgement scene, childlike jokes, and boisterous personality. It's also worth mentioning, that the use of puppetry in the show is very clever, adding to the whimsy and magical nature of Wonderland by bringing the non-human characters to life, and adding height to the stage. I won't say too much more, or I'll ruin the surprise!
Technically, this show was impressive. The lighting brought in different elements of magic and was utilised well. Especially when Alice slowly shrank to fit in the tiny little door, the use of a growing spotlight, UV, and shadow, truly made this moment magical. The props and costumes with their extravagance and wondrous detail helped to bring each character and scene to exquisite life. I do believe that some attempts to modernise the story were lost on the demographic to which the show was aimed. Jokes that were said around social media, and language that was used aimed at Gen Z, seemed to go over some of the audience’s head. I also believe that these choices detracted from the whimsy of Wonderland and being lost in another world unlike our own.
Overall, this version of Alice and her adventures in Wonderland is fun, silly, and entices the youngest members of the audience. Although it has imperfections, the cast is enthusiastic, ridiculous, and energetic and I believe it to be a whimsical way to introduce the wonderful world of Alice in Wonderland to newcomers. Stay out of the heat these school holidays with an hour of fun!
Alice in Wonderland – Sydney Coliseum Theatre
Dates & Times:
4 Jan 2024 - 6 Jan 2024
Thursday 4/01/24 – 7:30pm
Friday 5/01/24 – 11am & 2pm
Saturday 6/01/24 – 11am & 2pm
A Reserve $64.90
B Reserve $54.90
C Reserve $44.90
The duration of this event is 60 minutes with no intermission. Event duration is a guide only.