Big Telly have already explored the theatrical possibilities of Zoom with shows including The Tempest and Operation Elsewhere. They have come as something of a relief from the monologue-driven content that has dominated theatre’s digital out-put over the last few months.
The two companies’ collaborations have proved fruitful, and if Alice feels less successful overall that might be simply because the format is now familiar. Also because Lewis Carroll’s story is in many ways complicated enough without the introduction of a theme park motif and the possibility of audiences going off down different rabbit holes courtesy of charisma.ai who allow us to select the order in which we observe early scenes.
There is novelty value in this nod to the choose-your-own-adventure style construct but while theatre is often at its most interesting when it escapes linear narrative, this is a big ask because for all its absurdities Carroll’s book has its own internal logic and a story arc that is as satisfying despite its discombobulating dream-like nature.
That’s destroyed here, and so it takes too long to become invested in the story and has the effect of side-lining Leda Douglas’ appealing Alice who becomes just one more telescoping fairground turn. Which makes her observation that “there ought to be a book written about me” a mite ironic.
There is fun to be had along the way not least with the clever Tweedledum/Tweedledee (Tom Richardson) mirror scene and an extended sustained Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, penned by Charlotte Keatley. At one point you can use a second device to create your own hedgehog.
But these moments distract as much as they add and you long for as much effort to have gone into the overall scripting as it has into the technology. In the end the greater pleasure here is in watching parents and children interact with gusto rather than in the skill of the storytelling. For all its tricks this feels as if it’s missing the real trick of Carroll’s original classic.
Alice - a Virtual Theme Park is streaming until 30 August.
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