The studio at the Lyric was packed to the gills for half-term and noisily buzzing with excitement as the audience prepared to head down the rabbit hole. Bursting from a huge central trunk was the main body of the set: a pop-up, fold-out storybook with intricate flaps and folds, containing masks and interactive props. An intriguing row of puppets were poised for action at the back of the stage, resplendent in beautiful costumes. The buffet of props and puppets continued around the playing space and were masterfully manipulated by the two-strong cast.
Noel Byrne and Antonia Christopher are very slick and clearly accomplished performers. There’s a moving moment when Christopher, who plays Alice, meets the puppet version of Alice, who gently touches her face to somehow reassure her. Byrne and Christopher swap puppets between them in very smooth sequences – the disappearance and reappearance of the Cheshire Cat was a firm favourite, and at one point Byrne was Tweedle Dum and Dee simultaneously. However, while the entertaining embodiment of all our favourite Wonderland characters was an impressive feat for just two actors, it was sometimes a touch confusing even for us adults.
The production was very faithful to the voice of the book, so though it felt authentic it sometimes grew a little wordy for an audience aged 4+. Dan Melrose’s music subtly introduced new characters and story progression, and the original soundtrack provided a beautiful, magical atmosphere. The production feels very home-made in a heartfelt, comforting way. A modest, skilled and poignant exploration down the famous burrow.
Simone is a trained actress and has worked in the theatre and television. She has also run drama workshops for children. She now teaches in a primary school in East London and regularly enjoys trips to the theatre with her six year old daughter.