Outdoor summer Panto review: The enchanting journey of Alice in Wonderland at Kew Gardens

Step into the whimsical world of Lewis Carroll‘s timeless classic as “Theatre on Kew” presents a magical outdoor theatre performance of Alice in Wonderland set amidst the picturesque Berberis Dell in Kew Gardens. This captivating play, adapted by Bradley Cole with original music by Guy Holden, offers a delightful experience for children and adults alike. With flamboyant Panto costumes, exuberant actors, and a talented cast of actor-musicians, the show promises an enchanting journey that leads the audience down the rabbit hole into a fantastical wonderland.

Outdoor summer Panto review The enchanting journey of Alice in Wonderland at Kew Gardens

Dates, Time, and Location

Running from now to 28 August 2023, the play is available for audiences on Wednesdays to Sundays, with two daily show times at 11 am and 2 pm. It’s worth noting that the show runs for a duration of 70 minutes without an interval, allowing the audience to remain immersed in the enchanting world of Wonderland.

The venue, Berberis Dell in Kew Gardens, provides a perfect backdrop for this fantastical journey. Surrounded by nature’s beauty, the outdoor setting adds to the charm of the performance and allows the audience to feel more connected to the story.

Themes and Adaptation

“Alice in Wonderland” has always been celebrated for its themes that resonate with both children and adults. The play stays faithful to the original, including much-abridged quotes from the book. Narrators skilfully guide the audience through the story, setting the scenes, and explaining Alice’s thoughts.

One of the highlights of the play is its commentary on monarchy, education, and the law. Royalty is portrayed as big, spoilt children with a streak of sadism, adding a touch of humour and critique to the narrative. The famous phrase “Off with his head” is delivered with precision, engaging the audience, especially the children, who chuckle and feel involved in the story.

Music and Performances

Original music by Guy Holden complements the play, signalling the magical moments and adding depth to the experience. The talented ensemble of actor-musicians creates a lively atmosphere with songs and dance routines, often accompanied by concertina, trumpet, sax, and guitar.

The flamboyant Panto costumes and wonderful portrayal of characters, especially the Mad Hatter and the tea party, further enhance the visual appeal and leave the audience in awe.

Audience Interaction and Engagement

While the play holds an undeniable charm, some aspects could be improved to ensure maximum engagement for the audience, particularly the younger children. The lack of microphones affects audibility in the vast open space, especially when actors are facing away. Aircraft noise further compounds the problem, making it challenging for grandparents and others to hear clearly.

To keep the younger audience engaged, more involvement of children as a mass could be incorporated. Snippets of choruses during songs, trigger words during pivotal moments, and mime actions when characters deliver iconic lines could further immerse the children in the experience.

Having pathways through the audience for actors to get closer and interact with them would bridge the gap between the performance and the spectators. Leaving props with families for children to touch and feel part of the action would create a more inclusive atmosphere.

The Performers and Their Experience

The talented cast and crew are the heart and soul of this magical production. The Cheshire Cat, in particular, expressed delight in being “typecast” for the role and enjoyed interacting with the children. The director, Francesca, encouraged collaboration and valued the actors’ input, allowing for a more enriching creative process.

“Alice in Wonderland” at Kew Gardens provides an enchanting experience for visitors of all ages. Set amidst the beautiful Berberis Dell, the play’s talented cast of actor-musicians brings the fantastical world of Wonderland to life. With flamboyant costumes, delightful performances, and engaging music, the play remains true to the essence of Lewis Carroll’s timeless classic.

The commentary on monarchy and the law adds depth to the performance while keeping a touch of humour and engagement for the audience. To make the experience even better, improvements in audibility and more active audience participation, particularly for younger children, could be considered.

Overall, “Theatre on Kew: Alice in Wonderland” is a must-see for families and theatre enthusiasts looking to immerse themselves in a magical journey through Wonderland. So, gather your family and friends, and journey down the rabbit hole for a whimsical adventure you won’t soon forget. Don’t miss the opportunity to be part of this captivating outdoor theatre experience at Kew Gardens.

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