Paul McIlwee follows Indigo Moon Theatre down the rabbit hole
Alice and her exploits in the imaginary Wonderland have enjoyed something of a boom recently, what with the long awaited release of Tim Burton's high-on-visuals, low-on-coherency movie, Alice in Wonderland. Now a low key twist on the CS Lewis tale hits the stage, courtesy of London-based Indigo Moon Theatre company. I see the production at the Ardhowen Theatre along with an audience of excited Enniskillen school children.
St Mary's Church in east Yorkshire inspired this new adaptation of the story. Alice, as a marionette, takes a trip to the church and encounters the White Rabbit on the wall. When the Rabbit steals her jam tarts, a chase ensues through the rabbit hole to Wonderland so Alice can retrieve the tarts. On the way she encounters Wonderland regulars the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, March Hare and of course the evil Queen of Hearts. Can she get her tarts back before they get scoffed?
Indigo Moon Theatre has managed to craft an original spin on the tale, using an array of techniques to bring Wonderland to life. Upstage there are screens showing footage taken in St Mary's Church. The idea of filming where the story took its inspiration is a great idea because not only does it give the story some grounding, but we also get to see where it all began for Lewis Carroll.
From there, the audience is transported into shadow puppet world that is inspired by the gothic church itself. The show continues at a nice pace, with that each new character allowed just the right amount of time onstage, never lingering longer than they should. There's much humour to be had, with even us adults chuckling at what is ostensibly a children's show. The children are encouraged to join in on the performance, which has a pantomime feel at times with plenty of 'he's behind you' moments.
Anna Ingleby voices the characters with flair, while Haviel Perdana provides the music. Ingleby spends the majority of her time behind a screen and projects the characters brilliantly by voice alone. She's a great storyteller, and pulls off all the voices expertly, whether she is the softly-spoken Alice, the permanently in-a-rush Rabbit or the haughty Red Queen herself. Perdana's music hits all the right notes (pardon the pun) at the right times, nothing ever feeling out of place.
The only real criticism for me would be the church-like screens the action plays out on. The thick black beams do have a tendency to block out some of the action and can be distracting. On the whole, however, Alice and the White Rabbit is entertaining for the young, and the young at heart.
William Wilson, Director, Lyth Arts Centre
Indigo Moon Theatre is a small children's theatre company that makes a big impact. With great success the company has just given eight performances over five days of their current piece "The Lost Forest" to around 400 primary school children in this venue's 60-seat studio theatre.
Central to this production is the intention to combine visual stimulation, entertainment and education so as to give children and families both a satisfying and thought-provoking experience. The Lost Forest is clearly focused on helping children to understand the full implications of what happens when we don't look after the environment. The live interaction and audience participation during the performance as well as the question and answer session that followed made it clear that the children had taken many of the interrelated issues on board.
The strong impact is generated by the company's rich mixture of skills and stagecraft. With the simplest of sets, just two glades of white cloth, and a high-quality mix of subtle stage lighting and digital projection we were carried effortlessly and convincingly to the depths of the jungle. The effect was greatly enhanced by an exquisite and complex soundscape - music, natural sounds and startling effects - all the original work of Haviel Perdana who sits side of stage in a little cave of electronics like a magician turning the scene into a truly magical space.
The other performer, Anna Ingleby (it's a two person show) works all the puppets and produces all the voices. The impressive dynamic range of her voice and her sensitive manual expression give the puppets complete credibility and so extensive is the range of both rod and shadow versions of the characters and animals that it's astonishing to discover at the end of the show that there has only been one performer behind the set.
The production cleverly weaves together an ancient theatrical tradition, state of the art technology and interactive live entertainment. It's difficult to imagine how a company opting to use such small means could create a richer 50 minute piece of theatre to delight so many children. The Lost Forest successfully makes a strong and important socio-political comment through live theatre which simultaneously engages and entertains both children and adults at various levels in a way which would be difficult through other media.