To mark the 150 year anniversary since Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland was published, we’re making our debut in Banbury at The Mill Arts Centre from 8 December – 2 January with a festive version of our production Alice.
We spoke to our director, Helen Tennison, about how the adaptation has come together and how she’s feeling in the lead up to Christmas.
How has merging Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass affected the adaptation? How did you pick the best bits?!
There are so many best bits – it was hard to choose! Using both books gave us the opportunity to be inspired by the famous Wonderland stories in addition to the fascinating conceptual frameworks of Through the Looking Glass. The writer, Kate, and I wanted to include all the really famous characters as well as our personal favourites. We went through many drafts of the script, adding and deleting storylines, whittling down our choices based on what we felt best served Alice’s journey.
What is the most fascinating thing about Alice in Wonderland for you?
The absurdity! How did Lewis Carroll think of all those incredible characters and concepts? And the structural development into ‘through the looking glass’ is very rewarding. We’ve taken some of the characters and events from that book too. Even today it shines as a unique piece of work, which is why it is still so incredibly popular.
How did the story lend itself to being made into a live performance?
The joy of creating a piece of theatre from the Alice books is that both are crammed full of fantastical moments. Such moments are a wonderful theatrical challenge – how on earth do you make Alice grow and shrink? Finding the answers to these questions is one of the things I find most exciting in creating theatre.
What’s it like bringing to life such well known characters?
A lot of fun! I was very keen to bring a new angle to each character, one that was very much a part of our mechanical world but had clearly grown from Lewis Carroll’s inspiration. Working with such a talented company of actors has brought something joyful and unique to each portrayal.
How important is the ‘coming of age’ element of the story for you?
I felt that it was very important for Alice to learn from her adventures. Looking for ideas in the books I became very interested in the way time is manipulated, and of course as you age, your experience of time changes. The many alterations in Alice’s body size seemed to echo the strange physical changes that occur on the path to adulthood. Growing up can seem frightening, there are a lot of challenges along the way, however Alice learns that if she is true to herself she can face life’s challenges with confidence and generosity.
What was the most challenging part of creating your adaptation of Alice in Wonderland?
What struck me and writer Kate Kerrow the most was that to make a captivating piece of theatre we needed to create a clear psychological journey for Alice. What does she learn from being in Wonderland? How is she different at the end of the play to the person she was at the beginning. This is how we came upon the idea of a coming of age story, a girl who has to face her fears in order to grow up.
How do you plan to adapt the promenade aspect of Alice at St. Hugh’s to your Christmas performances at The Mill Arts Centre?
The joy of promenade is all the opportunities it offers for audience interaction- so we’re aiming to keep as much of that spirit as possible! However being indoors offers a wealth of new opportunities for creating a magical and dramatic atmosphere through the fabulous work of designer Ryan Dawson-Laight and Lighting Designer Ashley Bale, and that’s what I’m really looking forward to!
This is Creation Theatre’s first production outside of Oxford! How are you and the cast feeling about that?
We’re very excited to be at the start of what we hope will be a long and fruitful Banbury adventure for Creation. It’s such a lovely town and The Mill is a beautiful venue for the Creation spirit.
How do you think audiences of all ages will relate to your version of the character Alice?
Rachel Mae Brady, who plays Alice, was a huge hit in the summer. Younger audience members were so excited to see a real Alice -and to be able to talk to her! While older audience members can connect to the coming of age aspect of her journey. Certainly everyone can the relate to her battle to overcome her inner demons.
Why do you think people should come and see Alice at The Mill this Christmas?
I love Christmas – and for me Christmas has always been about Christmas shows – Alice has just the right mixture of adventure, spectacle, magic, music and of course new takes on familiar characters – to be a favourite part of the festive season.