The Courtyard's Youth Theatre are delighting audiences this week with their vibrant, colourful and energetic production of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
Opening night saw the White cast take to the stage with Grace Goldsmith taking the lead role as Alice, a confident and winning performance that perfectly captured Alice's confusion and curiosity. Manon Formaggia delivered a charming White Rabbit and Will Hurst as The Mad Hatter brought just the right touch of eccentricity to the role (I kept wondering who he reminded me of and finally it came to me - Ben in Outnumbered!).
With a cast of 85 (and another 85 in the second Red cast), director Ellen Dorsett clearly has her hands full but she has created a production that never falters, and makes full use of every member of the cast - particularly memorable were the Courtyard Kids, inventively costumed as Teacups and Teapots to sing I'm a Little Teapot ...
The set, designed by Carl Davies, creates a stunning surreal Wonderland and, appropriately for a dream, there's a more episodic feel to Adrian Mitchell's adaptation of Carroll's classic. But all the iconic set pieces are here - praise here for the inventive way in which Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole - with The Mad Hatter's Tea Party (where it's always teatime so there's never time to wash up), the Lobster Quadrille, the Red Queen's croquet game accompanied by the repeated cry of 'off with their heads', and the trial of the Knave of Hearts to bring the first half to a lively close.
The dream continues in Through the Looking Glass as Alice encounters Tweedledum and Tweedledee, a pair of warring chess pieces and Humpty Dumpty sitting precariously on his wall - before finally achieving her ambition of becoming a queen herself! But she's not queen for long before she wakes again to find herself firmly back in the real world of the riverbank.
Ellen Dorsett is to be congratulated on the wit and invention of this production, the professionalism of the young cast and the energy they bring to the stage. And every member of the cast, likewise, deserves applause for their part in an Alice in Wonderland that is perfectly dreamlike and beautifully paced and performed.
Alice in Wonderland runs until Saturday, April 22 with performances at 2pm and 7pm every day. To book, call the box office on 01432 340555 or visit courtyard.org.uk