Pros: Great family show–especially if you have young kids
Cons: The lines are delivered quickly, which can make it hard to understand the characters
The Blackshaw Theatre Company presents an imaginative production of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland, booking at the Selkirk Theatre until the end of this month. Adapted by Richard Stratton, the script won a Noda award for Best Light Entertainment in 2009, and is directed at the Selkirk by Blackshaw’s own Managing and Artistic Director, Ellie Pitkin.
The charming Selkirk Upstairs is nestled in a cosy residential neighbourhood just a short walk from the Tooting Broadway Tube. But finding the pub felt a bit like walking down the rabbit hole well before the play even began! As I walked down the residential street, I thought perhaps I had taken a wrong turn. In keeping with the theme of the evening, I felt just like Alice, wondering where I was going! Once discovered, the Selkirk Upstairs turned out to be a very welcoming family pub.
The play itself was definitely geared towards young children—and there were plenty in attendance! The seating was either wooden chairs or benches, which is fine, but I will say that I did feel a bit stiff after the hour-long production. Also, it did get quiet stuffy in there, so parents be aware!
My first view of the set had me rather taken aback. It’s a hodgepodge of stuff that reminded me a bit of my cluttered room back at Uni. At first I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. It felt like I had wandered into an old attic of some long lost relative. Dozens of framed pictures depicting famous paintings cover the back wall. Be sure to look closely at them, you’ll be sure to notice something odd. They are definitely worth pointing out to the kids.
Collectively, the cast members have quite extensive experience between them, ranging from Shakespeare to voice-overs. Their performances are flamboyant, but in an enjoyable way that is highly entertaining and engaging, particularly for younger audience members. It’s delightful to watch the cast pull off multiple character changes with skill throughout. Each of them, with the exception of Alice (Emily Rae), played two or three characters. Natalie Winter (the March Hare and Door 2) also puppeteered the Dormouse, jumped between each character flawlessly. (A side note here—the Dormouse sock-puppet is ridiculously cute in his crocheted teapot!)
I must say that by far best part of the whole play was the inventive costuming and props. Simple house-hold items like kitchen scrub brushes became flowers in Caterpillar’s garden; aluminium foil and colanders became the playful armour of Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum; and every character was brightly coloured. The best costume had to go to the Caterpillar; the plushy blue body suit was liberally covered with bright yellow dish gloves made me laugh for quite awhile. I applaud Zahra Mansouri for her cleverness in both set and costume design!
Children and parents will delight in the eccentric silliness of Wonderland. And for less than £25, a family of four can have a fun afternoon adventure with the memorable Alice.
Author: Richard Stratton
Director: Ellie Pitkin
Producer: Blackshaw Theatre Company
Booking Link: http://www.theselkirk.co.uk/
Booking Until: 17th May 2014