This revival of Guildford Shakespeare Company’s Alice in Wonderland is timed to commemorate 150 years since Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) came to Guildford for the first time to find a home for his family. It was a great honour to be welcomed to the service at the beautiful St Mary’s Church by The Reverend Charles Dodgson himself (Eliot Giuralarocca). Reverend Dodgson gave us a few words of welcome before introducing the first hymn, and I really enjoyed singing along with gusto, not something I normally do at the theatre!
During Reverend Dodgson’s subsequent sermon one member of the congregation becomes rather restless; Alice (Amelia Annowska) loses concentration and part way through the Lord’s Prayer we drift off with her. The Reverend morphs into a white rabbit and rushes off, Alice follows him. Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole is brilliantly staged, I could not have imagined how this could be done in the confines of a church, but it is inspired. From here we follow Alice beyond the doorway to the magical garden where we meet the caterpillar before splitting into groups to continue our journey to Wonderland.
Wonderland is situated in the Guildford Museum where we could wander around the different rooms at our own pace or choose to stop for refreshment in the Mock Turtle Bar. In one scene we got to enjoy the iconic voice of Brian Blessed. All too soon we were called for tea and the entire audience gathered around at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. I loved the tea party; The Mad Hatter (James Burton), March Hare (Jack Whitam) and Dormouse (Dewi Sarginson) are all wonderful, brimming over with energy (well maybe not the Dormouse) and madness. It was an action-packed party as we all had to keep changing places! One final stop, we are off to meet the Queen of Hearts at the castle and witness the trial of the Knave of Hearts. Robert Maskell is lovely as the kindly king and so is Angie Wallis as the horrid Queen. Despite her frequent requests, no heads are lost in this production and we can all go home unharmed.
This is a fantastic production; Sarah Gobran and Charlotte Conquest have excelled themselves. Quite how they manage to get everybody where they should be four times an evening at hourly intervals is a mystery. As always for GSC productions this is an evening of terrific fun, with audience interaction and participation. I learned about the life of Lewis Carroll and saw some parts of Guildford that I hadn’t seen before. Loved it, can’t wait until it comes back in 2021 for the 150th anniversary of the publication of Through the Looking Glass.
Review by Sally Knipe
November 2015 marked 150 years since the publication of Lewis Carroll’s wonderfully nonsensical creation Alice in Wonderland, and to celebrate this and Guildford’s unique relationship with Lewis Carroll, GSC created a promenade theatrical experience where audiences joined Alice on her curious adventures in Wonderland.
Three years on, the theatre company are going back down the rabbit hole with their sell-out adaptation, which also marks Guildford’s unique 150-year relationship with Reverend Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll.
In 1868, Dodgson took a lease on a town house in Guildford for his sisters, The Chestnuts. Over the next 30 years, he made regular visits, often preaching in St Mary’s Church, where, in 1898 his funeral would be held. Having passed away at The Chestnuts, Charles Dodgson was laid to rest in The Mount Cemetery overlooking Guildford.
Director Charlotte Conquest
Designer PJ McEvoy
Sound Design Matt Eaton
Lighting Designer Mark Dymock
Associate Designer Anett Black
Producers Sarah Gobran/Matt Pinches
Dates & Times
13 Oct – 3 Nov (excl. Sundays)
Eves. 5.30pm (Sats only); 6.30pm; 7.30pm; 8.30pm
Running time approx. 90 mins (no interval)
Press Night Tuesday 16 October
Starting at St Mary’s Church, Quarry Street, Guildford, GU1 3UA