Noda Review for Alice in Wonderland 

Author: Decia Ranger

This was my second visit to Saffron Players, a group which has a reputation for putting on annual pantos of a very high standard. I was certainly very impressed with last year’s offering so was really looking forward to seeing their 2019 production.

We were greeted by members of the friendly Front of House team and how smart they looked dressed in black with mauve sashes bearing the name of the society. This sort of attention to detail is usually a good indicator of things to come.

The society was still trying to come to terms with the loss, shortly before Christmas, of one of its much loved members. Vanessa Cowell, whose name is in the programme as co-producer, gave of her time over many years and in many capacities and it was obvious she will be sadly missed. I send my condolences to her family, members of whom were involved with this production which was dedicated to her memory.

Tom Whalley’s Alice in Wonderland is definitely a panto for the twenty-first century, but in the main stays true to Lewis Carroll’s original story. 

Following a brief warm-up by ‘J.B.’ we were ready for events to unfold.  But first, our eyes were drawn to the screens either side of the stage where green screen technology was being used for the first time, beginning with a ‘Star Wars’ style introduction to the show with a scrolling text. Later we would see Alice ‘shrink’ and ‘grow’ as required of the story. All clever stuff!

Keira Gibson opened the show as The Knave of Hearts and gave an excellent performance as the villain of the piece with good acting and projection. The equivalent of the good fairy was Cheshire Cat and Lucy Glover really made this part her own.  Her wonderfully expressive acting and continuous large grin, enhanced by terrific make up, endeared her to us all.  Very well done.

Lucy Chappell was a charming Alice. A very nice confident performance and a lovely singing voice. Rachel Crane really looked as though she was thoroughly enjoying playing The White Rabbit and what an excellent job she made of it. Well done to her.  

Jonathan Scripps not only directed but took on the role of The Mad Hatter to great effect and Alice Gant did a great job as Caterpillar, managing to act while being cocooned in her blue caterpillar costume.  There were good performances also from Rosemarie Slade as March Hare and Olivia Knight as Dormouse.

Rob Fernall as The Duchess knew how to cover when things went a bit off script, and carried on like a pro.  Just a pity he wasn’t able to cover his modesty when his short hooped skirt rose to almost indecent heights.  Yes, we all laughed, but a suitable undergarment would have saved those of us in the front from getting an eye full.  This though was just a small blip in an otherwise beautifully costumed production. 

Well done to Alice Bol who looked every bit the haughty Queen of Hearts, declaring ‘off with his/her head’ at every opportunity. We may have had to wait for her to put in an appearance but it was certainly worth it.

A strong supporting cast played the other characters we know so well from the story, all giving confident performances with good projection.

Sound and lighting were good with excellent visual effects and music was pre-recorded with a good choice of songs.  Here I must give a special mention to the ladies from wardrobe and make-up.  Their wonderful creativity really brought the characters to life.  Rolling credits following the final curtain put a classy finishing touch to this very polished production.

Congratulations to everyone involved and thank you for inviting me.