Box Tale Soup's 'Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland' is an hour of pure delight. There's no fixed set or backdrop, only a row of puppets facing away from the audience, each hanging on its own stand, waiting to come to life. Small props and pieces of scenery are produced from a suitcase in the middle of the stage. The versatility of this small case is remarkable, particularly when layers of painted card are unfolded to form a toadstool or trees in a forest. Dan Melrose’s pre-recorded but enchanting soundtrack provides a backdrop of twinkly xylophone and piano.
Performers Antonia Christophers and Noel Byrne wear smart costumes that contain elements of printed book pages, a nod to Lewis Carroll’s original tale. It's a nice touch that also flows into the costumes of each puppet. The puppetry itself is supreme. Christophers shares the role of Alice with a puppet dressed in identical petticoat and apron, and switches smoothly between operating Alice and acting the role herself. Byrne operates the majority of the supporting cast.
The puppets are made in Box Tale Soup’s signature style with white faces, cloth costumes and papier-mâché heads and look slightly fragile owing to their papery appearance. The White Rabbit is a standout, his glasses, bucked teeth and nose showing skillful puppet making. The Caterpillar is another imaginative addition to the puppet cast with his segmented body resembling a tiny green sleeping bag. A pair of puppet birds put on a fun show by shuffling about in the air, forcing Alice to join in a caucus race and, later, two nervous playing cards (fashioned out of flat card) hurry to paint the white roses red.
It was disappointing not to see a Cheshire Cat puppet in this production. Instead, Byrne takes pieces of cardboard forest from the suitcase and positions his head within these, giving the impression of a cat’s facial shape before delivering the famous “we’re all mad here” line. You can’t help but feel they could have done so much more with this much-loved character. The same goes for the Queen of Hearts, who Byrne channels by putting on a small headdress and a smug grin that, visually, isn’t quite enough to do the character justice.
The manic tea party is the absolute highlight of the show. The Hare and the Hatter confuse Alice by switching places around a table that is worn by Byrne on special braces. The fun and confusion as these mad characters force Alice to move around the table again and again is very enjoyable to watch. The most enduring image though is the Dormouse. He is operated using a lever beneath the table and pops up from inside a teapot to sing, contributing much to the sweetness of this charming and wildly creative show.
'Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland'
Box Tale Soup
"Small props and pieces of scenery are produced from a suitcase in the middle of the stage. The versatility of this small case is remarkable, particularly when layers of painted card are unfolded to form a toadstool or trees in a forest."
We watched this performance at the Omnibus, Clapham