Fortunately or unfortunately, the ‘Streamingland’ in Alice in Streamingland doesn’t do Zoom meetings. For them, it’s all about published content on various social media platforms, or otherwise gathering in person. As the show only has five actors, the ‘rule of six’ doesn’t pose problems. There isn’t a lot in the way of audience participation, which ordinarily would be a red flag in your reviewer’s book for something billed as a pantomime. But, Covid restrictions being what they are, it’s not only entirely forgivable, but commendable.
Cast members had their masks on whenever they were making their way through the audience (seated at tables), and they were quite on point with ad-libbing to provide some extra layers of humour during the show. For theatre regulars, there weren’t many references to stage performances (fair enough, as there haven’t been that many stage performances to refer to in the first place) with material instead being drawn largely from television, with Schitt’s Creek and Tiger King being regularly parodied, as well as a scene inspired by The Crown.
In the first half, the musical numbers mostly had a chart music feel to them – at one point, I felt like I might as well be watching the Eurovision Song Contest, such was the cheery and upbeat disposition of the melodies. The second half’s songs were more varied, with modified lyrics to ‘Live in Living Color’ from Catch Me If You Can and ‘He Vas [sic] My Boyfriend’ from Young Frankenstein, as well as a delightful medley in the style of Disney songs.
Many of the punchlines worked well, and those that didn’t were merely unfunny rather than offensive. Those moments were rare, however: for the most part, the show served as a reminder as to what it is that a theatre production, experienced in person, can do for one’s thoughts and emotions that sitting at home watching an online show doesn’t do so well. As an audience, collectively we were able to laugh together, applaud together, and yes, boo together. The actors, too, fed off the banter and heckling, and without a live audience, it’s just not the same experience.
The sound balance, particularly during the musical numbers, could have been a little better. Everyone sings brilliantly, and it’s clear the cast were enjoying themselves on stage – camaraderie is very much evident. One would be forgiven for thinking that some of the banter was entirely unscripted (I’ve been to enough seasonal shows over the years to know better), and while it’s rather cliched to say so, I found myself forgetting about the world and its many problems for a couple of hours and getting fully immersed in the show, and generally having a good time.
Very few attend panto for a deep, meaningful storyline, but this one, plot-wise, is so leftfield that there is no comprehensive comeuppance (as far as I could deduce) for the antagonist, and the title character simply carries on being a social media influencer, albeit a likeable one. Broad and eclectic – there were moments when I hadn’t a clue what was going on – the show makes up for its randomness in its acerbic wit and irresistible charm.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Well, it takes two lockdowns for us to realise how much we appreciate Lockdown Streaming TV! Alice in Streamingland is a pansexual musical pantomime, playing at the much loved Phoenix Arts Club from 5th December to 3rd January, celebrating Alice’s fall into the world of Streamingland – those streaming entertainment channels we couldn’t do without over the last nine months.
This LIVE musical pantomime finds Alice following the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole into Interflixland, Disney C Minusland and iPlayerland as she struggles to get home. Will the Evil Queen of Hearts take over as Vice President of Global TV, will The White Knight win through with his new “Made in Streamingland” reality show, or will Alice triumph against all odds as she records her journey for her TokTik channel?
Along the way, she’ll meet all the familiar Wonderland characters – but with a twist – who would have thought that the Queen of Hearts would be played by RuPaul, The White Rabbit by Joe Exotic, The Cheshire Cat by Moira Rose, or the Duchess by Dot Cotton?!
Cast & Creatives:
Sofie Kaern as Alice
Colin Savage as Queen of Hearts
Richard Dawes as White Knight & Caterpillar
Matt Bateman as White Rabbit, Mad Hatter & Knave of Hearts
Laura Hyde as Black and White Cat & Duchess
Music Arrangements: James Doughty
Sound and Lighting Design: Nathan Etherington and Daisy Hebblewhite
Produced by: Phoenix Artist Club Ltd for Phoenix Arts Club
The Phoenix Arts Club
One Phoenix Street, London, WC2H 8BU