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Three Trees Theatre’s Alice at the Landor Theatre – Review

Three Trees Theatre presents AliceThis is a short story that features a character called Lewis Carroll (Malcolm Jeffries) and another called Alice (Maja Laskowska), but is quite a departure from Wonderland. There’s no anthropomorphism going on, and in its place is a party game night that wouldn’t be out of place in 1960s Paris, at the height of the bohemian student dream. Lewis’ partner, Catherine (Sarah Rickman) is rather reluctant to welcome Alice to the proceedings – and as they go on, it becomes abundantly clear why. Let’s just say this gathering is no place for a schoolgirl, albeit someone in Year 11.

The in-the-round setting is a novelty for the Landor, now rather groovily (or perhaps slightly pretentiously) called Landor_Space. But as the characters are sat at a round table facing one another, this reinforces the fourth wall far more than a proscenium arch setting would, and there is never so much as a knowing wink to the audience throughout. A distancing effect is further compounded by this set of characters using the party games to portray themselves as shocking and undesirable, and in the process, asserting themselves to be significantly more dislikeable and disagreeable than Damian (Michael Addo) determines that Andrew (Tim Jennings) is bound for hell.
And not for nothing does the group play ‘Cards Against Humanity’ – a game involving words or phrases printed on cards that must serve as responses to complete ‘fill in the blank’ statements.

What would make Andrew have sexual relations? What will the next Happy Meal be? There’s game after game after game, including ‘Never Have I Ever…’ and ‘Guess Who?’, and given that these are the sorts of activities that are better enjoyed as a participant than a spectator, in this regard at least, the play punches above its weight. But there isn’t much in the way of character development while the games are in progress. Only when the freeze frame device is deployed does Alice get to ask more pertinent questions, or otherwise, have more pertinent questions asked of her, and even then the answers are often far from clear-cut. Occasionally a question is answered with another question.

This all led to some frustration on my part as to where this play was going. It is quite natural to expect conversation to be free-flowing in a gathering like this, and broad in nature, as what someone says will remind somebody else of another recent event, and so on. Were the ever-increasingly outlandish statements really revelatory or just sensationalist? The use of a stage revolve allowed the audience a good view of each character, and a large number of topics are explored, but with little depth, such that it was difficult to maintain interest in what was being talked about.

The only message I came away with was one about keeping one’s cards close to one’s chest. Now, the acting is of a high standard, for sure. This is an opportunity to witness theatre in which, as with the party games, each character is given a fair and equal hearing. But this is also a production that achieves little else than a portrayal of friends being in the same place, at the same time, enjoying one another’s company. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but there seemed to be a missed opportunity for deeper and more absorbing conversations than these.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

A group of bohemian artists are gathering at Lewis Carroll’s house. There’s drinks and drugs and philosophical debates. Suddenly there’s a knock on the door – there’s Alice, the neighbour’s young daughter. Lewis invites her in.

Alice is a daring new adaptation that isn’t shying away from controversial rumours about Carroll and the young Alice. Directed by Or Benezra-Segal (Sad Girls at the Edinburgh Fringe, War Whores at The Courtyard). Three Trees Theatre is a new theatre company founded by Laura Thomasina Haynes, Mollie Macpherson and Jonna Blode Hanno (founders of Bossy Forum).

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