dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Students pull out all the stops for Christmas show
The students of Birmingham Ormiston Academy take to the stage with bucketloads of enthusiasm in this family show. Staged at the Old Rep Theatre, Alice in Wonderland is imaginative, bright and colourful, brimming with energy and, of course, just a bit crazy.
This year BOA has staged its Christmas show with the entire cast made up of students with four different casts having their turn on stage. Replacing the professional actors succeeds incredibly well with the students more than capable of holding the stage and the audience.
On press night, the audience watched the Hearts cast and all of the young people excelled, creating richly rounded characters even if they are only in the spotlight for a few minutes. It feels unfair to pick out any of the students when they are all so good but special mention goes to Lena Bettles as a frantic White Rabbit, Grace Hull as a richly caricatured Queen of Hearts, Dean Rickards as a zany Mad Hatter and Poppy Parker for her languorous Caterpillar.
Lewis Carroll's Alice books are always a quandary to stage. They are packed full of memorable characters, have some amazing scenes and have inspired countless adaptations. But the main difficulty is that the story lacks structure and has a tendency to leave readers and viewers more than a little puzzled.
Written by Toby Hulse and directed by Steve Elias, this adaptation does its best to tackle the issue, changing the story slightly so that Alice is now an adult. When her three daughters tell her they have no time for nonsense stories, Alice leads them back into Wonderland to discover the power of imagination. To some extent the device works but at times it feels like it is repeated just a little too often, pulling us away from the world of Wonderland. Plus I have to admit to missing the traditional Alice, it is her sense of curiosity throughout the original story which acts as our guide into its psychedelic world.
James Latham's set designs and Neil Hughes' costumes are both colourful and creative with the Cheshire Cat's smile and eyes being painted onto twirling parasols and the Mad Hatter's Tea Party laden with cakes and teapots. Much of the scenery, costumes, lighting and assisting roles are undertaken by BOA students, building up much-needed experience for their future careers.
Alice is the sixth Christmas show staged by BOA and the creative team have the festive project now well in their stride. No doubt they were disappointed that their plans for a totally new production, Beauty and the Beast, have been postponed and Alice is a revival but they have tried a few new ideas this year which they will no doubt consider continuing into a new production next Christmas.