A Cheshire cat with a maniacal grin, an anxious rabbit with a pocket watch and enticingly labelled vials of magical potions that can shrink you to a tiny 10 inches tall or make you sprout to nine foot high. With so many imaginative gems at director Rosamunde Hutt’s disposal, working on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland must have been a dream come true for the children’s theatremaker and her enthusiastic cast.
Here Ebony Feare (Alice), Robert Saunders (The Mad Hatter), Dale Superville (The White Rabbit), Géhane Strehler (The Queen of Hearts and The Cheshire Cat) tell us exactly why they love the classic story, why getting lost in Carroll’s uniquely creative world this Christmas is a brilliant idea and how they are recreating the story on stage at the Polka theatre as a treat for children and adults alike.
Describe the show in six words.
Feare: Fun, physical, magical, exciting, an adventure!
Saunders: [It’s] tough to describe such an epic show in just six words but here goes: childhood, imagination, exploration, adventure, wild and (just a little) dangerous.
Strehler: A child’s imagination has no limit.
Superville: Dark, fun, sad, curious, exciting, thought-provoking.
What is your favourite moment of the show?
Feare: My favourite moment is the falling down the rabbit hole scene. For this I will be doing aerial work, which is great fun and should look delightful! This will be a real treat for the audience!
Saunders: I don’t think I have a particular favourite moment of the show and I don’t want to give too much away, but my favourite moments are when we are all on stage working as an ensemble to create the ‘magic’ moments of the production.
Strehler: I think my favourite moment is when the Dormouse says: “Did you ever see such a thing as a drawing of a much of a muchness…” In my mind it is better than the moon, memory and magic!
Superville: My favourite moment has to be when Alice falls down the rabbit hole as well. Just like life, you’re jumping into the unknown.
If you had to fall down a rabbit hole, what would the world you would most like to discover be like?
Feare: I would love to discover the world of The Borrowers! It would be interesting to see how they live and to view the world through their eyes. It would be fascinating to be surrounded by enormous things… a bit like the scene when Alice drinks the potion and eats the cake, shrinking and growing in turn.
Saunders: If I were to fall down a rabbit hole (which is likely as I’m quite clumsy) the world I’d most like to discover is embarrassingly cheesy I’m afraid, but one in which people broke out into song and dance constantly, just like in the musicals! Where, for some reason, an entire village will all know a song and dance routine to perfection for no apparent reason without rehearsal.
Strehler: Close your eyes and imagine a world of love and light and purity and kindness, of care and concern and wonder. I’d jump down any rabbit hole for that…
Superville: The world I’m in is already the wonderland I want to be in.
Which other famous literary children’s character would you like to play on stage?
Feare: I’m not really sure which character, but I would like to play a baddy. Someone like the Wicked Witch in Snow White. I’ve never played a baddy so this would be something new and fun to play with!
Saunders: Luckily I had the chance to play my dream role from children’s literature last year at Polka: Toad from The Wind In The Willows. It was like all my Christmases had come at once. I’d always wanted to play him as he appeals to the naughty child within me. There was no acting required really!
Strehler: I’d like to play Scheherazade from 1001 Arabian Nights. She is the ultimate storyteller. Her imagination saved her life. We don’t tell stories because we want to, it’s because we need to.
Superville: I’d like to play Peter Pan. I’ve always wanted to fly on stage.
What was your favourite story when you were a child?
Feare: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory! I’ve always been a big sweet eater, and still am! Imagining the colours, sweets and magic all in one was perfect for me as a child, and still is now actually.
Saunders: My favourite stories when I was little were actually not ones that you will know, it would have to be the stories my Granddad would make up for me about Spot The Dog or ones that included me as a character in them.
Strehler: For me it’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. He eats so many delicious things and still looks incredibly beautiful for it in the end.
Superville: It would have to be the complete works of Lewis Carroll. The topsy-turvy world he lived in I really related to.
What is the most magical theatre experience you have ever had?
Feare: Playing the Roly-Poly Bird in The Twits with Pilot Theatre Company was a great experience. I got to fly, sing and dance the salsa.
Saunders: The most magical theatre experience I’ve ever had was when I was 18 and in New York with some friends, and I saw my first ever Broadway Show. I went on my own as my friends weren’t interested, but that made it even more special. I saw The Little Mermaid and it was truly a magical spectacle from start to finish!
Strehler: My friend Julian Dauphin is a famous magician and his shows are magical because I never know how he does it. He did once ask me to be his assistant, so I could’ve found out!
Superville: Seeing Yul Brynner in The King And I. He was my mum’s favourite actor so I had seen most of his films. When that man walked on stage I thought I was in the presence of a god.
Why should families come and see Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland this season?
Feare: The show tells a great story [and] everyone in the family will take something different away from the show. This is a truly uplifting Christmas treat.
Saunders: Families should come and see the show if they are looking to escape down the rabbit hole themselves away from all the Christmas shopping and preparations; where they can get lost in Lewis Carroll’s world for a few hours, meeting classic characters that we all know and love so well, brought to life on stage.
Strehler: Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland is a rite of passage for any child into adulthood, so it is something anyone of any age can relate to.
Superville: It’s always fun to escape reality once in a while.
The show plays over Christmas. How will you be celebrating on the day?
Feare: I will be at my family home this Christmas in Leicester! I’m very excited for the turkey and presents.
Saunders: I’ll be celebrating Christmas as I do every year with all my friends and family at home in Essex. Eating ridiculous amounts, hopefully with lots of presents (fingers crossed) and maybe the odd game of Monopoly!
Strehler: Time will tell…
Superville: Christmas Day I’ll be home with my wife and children.