Written and directed by Elodie Boal
Mira Ball production
Brisbane Arts Theatre
Season has ended.
The main event was prefaced with pre-show entertainment in the theatre courtyard when Thomas Mitchell, as a high camp Betty Blockbuster-styled Queens of Hearts, harassed the audience, and Jake Hollingsworth, shirtless by command of the Queen, performed his work The Theory of Emotion to an attentive audience. Then came the play.
This 45-minute one-acter has won a heap of awards on the festival circuit and, after watching this absorbing play I could see why. Four of the five actors came from the original festival production and gave award winning performances along with the new cast member Jonty Martin .
Elodie Boal’s script is quirky, well written and imaginative, with twists and turns all over the place and filled with dramatic impact. The characters are excellently drawn. It is funny and dark, very much a black comedy.
The play was inspired by the book Alice in Wonderland and sees a grown-up Alice revisiting the Mad Hatter’s tea party. This time there is no Dormouse and no White Rabbit. Apart from Alice, the Hatter’s guests are the Cheshire Cat (Chess) and Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Dee and Dum).
We discover later in the play why the original guests are not present!
The Hatter is indeed mad, in fact he is psychotic. His mood swings are extreme and his anger not easily suppressed, as suppress it he tries. He certainly belonged in the weird and often violent world of Wonderland.
The Hatter’s patience is almost at an end when Alice eventually arrives, fairly late. He was afraid she would not turn up (shades of Waiting for Godot in the opening scene).
The tea party has lots of tea, cake and sweets and some other more sinister courses.
The play moves at a fast pace, with lots of little puzzles entering the script as realisation dawns that all is not well at this party.
This clever plot development, plus some very Alice moments made the play intriguing to watch as the audience was drawn deeper and deeper into the darkness that began to invade the comedy.
The costumes and set were very Wonderland, and this, plus the sound and lighting added more of the weird to the atmosphere.
Of course the Hatter dominated the action and everyone on stage. Reagan Warner, with some brilliant use of his eyes was a magnificent Hatter. His mood changes were always on cue and he developed from nervy to truly nasty so subtly it was insidious. He was not someone you might readily accept a party invitation to party from.
Lindi Milbourne played Chess in a very feline way without a cat costume and again it was a polished performance.
Gary Farmer and Jonty Martin played the Dee and Dum, forever hungry and constantly talking in rhyme, which drove the Hatter even madder. Again, polished performers who won laughs with their weirdly brotherly antics
Elodie Boal, who also added her name to the program as Technical Director, Lighting Designer, Sound Designer, Set Designer, Costume Designer, played Alice, gown up but still possessing the childlike quality of the original.
It was obviously very much her baby and she should be proud of it. And I am sure Charles Dodgson would have loved it!