Skip to main content

Review of Alice At Wonderland from Open Stage Performing Arts at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I always try my very best to be positive about community shows as they form a perfect bridging gap between the very beginners and those of the professional world. Among these vast numbers (and in this show, there were roughly 170 performers in this epic), some on the stage you always feel sure has enough talent to take them to some success in the future.

So if all that hints that I didn't find Alice At Wonderland the greatest success ever, you would be quite right. However, fortunately, most of the blame doesn't lie with the performers, most are the fault of the script. While the premise of setting Alice in Wonderland during a festival called Wonderland (explaining the At of the title) is excellent, it drags the whole premise over an incredible and excruciating three-hour-plus production. Now, community shows are often long, it is to be expected as teacher and pupils alike need to have their turn on the stage, however creating one of such length doesn't really help anyone, certainly not the audience. Also, three hours plus wouldn't be so bad if the script was entertaining, sadly Alice is only very occasionally so and often verges into the territory of abysmal. Scenes go on too long, and most especially those featuring host Janet Smiley are cringe inducing.

However, between all this are the real gems of shows like this, the performers, and in this show, they are of one of the most diverse age spread you could imagine. From the tiny tots who get all the possible awws from the audience whenever they enter the stage, to seventy-year-olds and the choir. This is as all community stage school shows should be, fully inclusive and is at its very best when they are doing what they should, dancing and singing. It's perhaps true that there could have appeared a little more fun in some of the performers at times, and there were for whatever reason a few glum faces, and this doesn't include the few that were as always a little stage struck at being presented with a mass of a few hundred people looking on either.

The show itself was also sadly clearly victim to preparation time during the first of the two performances that I saw, with microphone and lighting cues missed, but all for a show like this fully understandable, and nothing at any point to criticise just mention. I know that there is never enough time to prepare these shows on the site and to be absolutely honest for a show of this scale it actually went extremely well.

Trying to pick our individual sequences during a show of this length is something that I wouldn't want to attempt. There were many good moments and a few less so, to be honest. However, there was one single section where I got what I really love from any theatre show, a genuinely surprising and in this case heart grabbing moment. It happened during the final part of the first half when the choir suddenly revealed themselves by standing up at various points in the stalls and began singing I Lived. Unexpected, thrilling and a single moment to almost make the whole show worthwhile.

So at the end of the show, I was as always happy to have attended. I love shows like this as you never know what to expect and who indeed you might be watching in their early days of development. This is often the place that performers of the future take their first steps, I only wish that the script had done all the young performers justice, as it was it was excellent in parts and pants in others. How is that for an expressive summing up!

Performance reviewed: Saturday, July 8th, 2017 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton. Alice At Wonderland was performed on Saturday, July 8th, 2017 only at Royal & Derngate, Northampton. Details of Open Stage can be found at http://openstage.vpweb.co.uk/

For further details visit the Royal & Derngate website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Blue/Orange at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The challenging and socially relevant Blue/Orange by Joe Penhall was published in 2000 and back then, this caustic exploration of mental health, and more specifically black mental health issues, was a tremendously relevant play. When it debuted on stage in London, the cast of just three was played by Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Director James Dacre doesn't have those names to play with so much in his cast, however here, he has worked with the writer himself to rework the play for a more modern audience. Does it still shock, and is the relevance still there today? Sadly, perhaps, the answer is yes, as doctors Bruce Flaherty and Robert Smith come to verbal blows over the health of patient Christopher, at times, you feel 21 years shed little light on how mental health is approached. Many references in the script, still sit unquestionably in the year 2000, however, with this reworking, one thing has changed dramatically. In the original version of the play, the two

Review of Shrek (NMTC) at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Three and a half years ago, in a land far far away, in a world very different to the one we are now in, I saw the touring professional production of Shrek The Musical , it was a mixed bag of quality, tilted extremely heavily in favour of one particular character (not the one you might expect) and not firing on all cylinders much of the time. One and a half years after my last visit to the Derngate theatre, I return to see the homegrown Northampton Musical Theatre Company's own take on the very same show. Would they be able to breathe more life into the show than the professionals did in that distant land? It is a bit of a yes and no really. Pretty much all of this is done to the best possible standard, and at times, with being an amateur show you could easily forget, they all have normal day jobs. The show oozes professional quality at times. The set looks magnificent, the costumes (from Molly Limpet's Theatrical Emporium) are superb, and as ever with NMTC, the backstage team c

Review of Hacktivists by Ben Ockrent performed by R&D Youth Theatre at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

The National Theatres Connections series of plays had been one of my highlights of my trips to R&D during 2014. Their short and snappy single act style kept them all interesting and never overstaying their welcome. So I was more than ready for my first encounter with one of this years Connections plays ahead of the main week of performances at R&D later in the year. Hacktivists is written by Ben Ockrent, whose slightly wacky but socially relevant play Breeders I had seen at St James Theatre last year. Hacktivists is less surreal, but does have a fair selection of what some people would call odd. Myself of the other hand would very much be home with them. So we are presented with thirteen nerdy "friends" who meet to hack, very much in what is termed the white hat variety. This being for good, as we join them they appear to have done very little more than hacked and created some LED light device. Crashing in to spoil the party however comes Beth (Emma-Ann Cranston)