I was asked to write a blog about my adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, but for reasons I’ll go into, it turns out I don’t know as much about it as I thought I did.
I wrote it for a youth theatre and it was first performed by ten young performers between the ages of 9 and 17.
My intention was to write something that would challenge them, to get them to use performance techniques they were unfamiliar with and show them that on stage, it’s ok to let go and truly throw yourself in to your role (something that can be hard to convince a 15 year old!).
Knowing that I would also be directing the play, I wrote what I knew I could achieve with the cast, props and costumes at my disposal. I’d also been playing around with the idea of setting a story in junk shop and having each scene and character constructed from the rubbish that lined the shelves. Alice in Wonderland seemed like a good match for this idea and the final result, I think, was great. My cast took up the challenges I set them and exceeded my expectations, and working out how to make a caterpillar out of junk was great fun. The production even won a NODA award. I was very happy indeed.
So when I gave Alice to Blackshaw Theatre, I found it hard to imagine how the play might be done any differently. Not because I thought my way was best, but because everything it had been the first time around was so vivid it was hard to look past it.
I decided to remove myself from the rehearsal process. I was invited along, but I didn’t want to be the voice at the back of the room that said, “Well last time we did it this way.” every time something was discussed. Other than providing a knitted teapot (made by my Nan – thanks Nan!) and helping to build a bit of the set, I tried to remain separate from the production.
This was a little sad as I like to be involved, but I knew that leaving it alone was the right thing to do.
I’m so very pleased that I did. Going to see the first performace on Saturday was like discovering the play all over again. I found that in scenes I know back to front, I found myself thinking, “Well I didn’t expect that!”, and wondering what on earth would happen next. It was exciting to see something I know so well transformed into something new.
It has been a great reminder that when you hand over a play it isn’t going to come back as you imagined it, and that you have to embrace this.
When I directed Alice I knew what I had written, so that’s what I got my actors to do; the great thing about giving up the reigns to other people is that they will find all the things you didn’t know about your play. For example, I never knew that the Walrus and the Carpenter are actually Brian Blessed and Alan Bennett. Seriously, if when you read the book again, use those voices in your head and you’ll be very glad you did!
So it seems that this blog, rather than being about my adaptation of Alice, is actually a massive thank you. A thank you to director Ellie, and the whole of the cast and crew, for taking a play that’s very dear to me and showing me wonderous things that I had no idea could be done with it.