On 7th and 8th December Coombe embarked on the 'Whole School Drama Production'. This year we created an original interpretation of 'Alice in Wonderland'. The cast was made up off up to 50 girls from year 7 to 11 with 2 year 13's supporting the drama staff with the directing. A number of year 12's also helped with advertising the production as well as being front of house on the evenings of the performances.
Here are two reviews telling two students experience of 'Alice in Wonderland': One from being involved in the play and one from watching the play.
Alice in Wonderland - My Experience - By Georgia Bell
When auditioning, I was very nervous. We were told to create a 3 minute piece with the script using physical theatre. I kept telling myself “you’ll be fine; it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get in.” I stepped up with my group, performed and left. After watching the groups before me I realised how talented everyone else was, and was convinced I had not achieved a part.
But weeks later, my name was on the cast list and I was ready to get down to work. I don’t think I realised how difficult making a production actually was. We played with ideas and put them to action, then to have them changed around and improved. It was very hard work. In a rehearsal, a fellow student mentioned the idea of it being modernised, in a video game. That idea stuck, and soon, we were changing rabbit holes to computer screens and countries into levels.
After a while, I got to grips with my character and started to relax a little. I had been given the part of The White Queen and one of the Frog Footman, which I loved, and enjoyed developing, and I couldn’t wait to perform. The play seemed to be coming together and we were getting serious. This was no longer a few weeks away from the opening night, it was three days. Those three days were spent off curriculum, working and editing the piece. We did a few run through to other students, and I finally understood the idea of a “quick change”.
The cast had all come together and we now are all good friends. Even though we worked hard, we were comfortable in each other's company and rehearsals were definitely not short of laughs. We were finally presented with our costumes, and it was soon opening night.
30 minutes before the show, we were all dashing around, fixing each other’s makeup and running through lines. The show’s finale contained a song called “Down the Rabbit Hole” written by a fellow student- Frances Bingham. We were memorising lyrics as quickly as we could and desperately trying to calm our violently beating hearts. The crowds had gathered, and seconds before the curtains were pulled, we were readying ourselves. Breathing exercises sure did bode me well in those last few minutes! Before I knew it, we were pulled on stage and the show had begun. The crowd was incredibly supportive and the show was really enjoyable. The set looked amazing and everyone’s costumes had been worked on so hard and it really worked out well. I remember my final bow as I smiled to the audience, proud of myself, and the rest of our cast. And I loved every second of it.
Alice in Wonderland - Theatre Review - by Hannah Dawson-Smallwood
Everyone knows that Alice had long, blonde hair swept back in a thick band. That, at least, is how the image has been fixed in our minds, thanks to Disney's cartoon and John Tenniel's classic illustrations. Yet this Alice was different. And so was this play.
This adaptation of Alice in Wonderland has changed greatly from its original concept. I know many people dislike the idea of such a classic being turned into something more contemporary, but it worked. And it worked well.
The show begins with Alice arguing with her mother; refusing to do her homework. She instead decides to turn on her games console, and plays her new game - Wonderland. Alice is drawn into the game, choosing which ‘Alice’ character to play as (the character of Alice was played by six different actors, one for each level she completed; for each part of the story), and I suppose you can probably tell where it goes from there.
Most of the show was produced using the physical ensemble; they ‘made’ the scenery, they created the soundtrack to the scenes, they ‘made’ the props. They even ‘made’ the terrifying Jabberwocky, Alice’s last obstacle to defeat before she becomes Queen of Wonderland and finished her game. This show had a much darker side to it which was not anticipated, which juxtapositions the ‘fantasy Alice’ which is usually portrayed. The physical ensemble had a key role in ensuring that Alice was always haunted by an omnipresent chorus of the unknown; making the fall down the rabbit hole (or through the computer screen) more like a nightmare than an escape from reality.
The lighting also played a huge role in this production; it reflected different characters by using alternative filters and types of lighting to define each character - for example the Jabberwocky was lit up in red, the caterpillar in green. This also made the audience able to connect with each of the individual characters of the play as you could associate the different colours with the various individuals.
The physical ensemble costumes were all the same, yet individual at the same time. This allowed for creativity and also a blank canvas for character costumes to be worn over the top when needed. This ensured that the actors stuck together as a group, rather that multiple individuals and kept the centre of attention on the main characters performing in the scene.
As the original plays scenes had been reduced for ease of access, it is clear that the directors kept the best and the most memorable scenes for us to view. Granted, they weren’t all the usual ones (in this production there was no mention of the Mock Turtle and Gryphon), but having a variety of new scenes that don’t usually get credit for providing a refreshing and delightful change.
As Lewis Carroll has proved throughout her journey in Wonderland; silly can be sublime, and that is exactly what this show turned out to be.