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Volunteer goes down the rabbit hole in Greenwich's Wonderland
Charlton House’s promenade production of Alice in Wonderland, as part of Greenwich Children’s Festival over Easter, allowed the audience to become part of Lewis Carroll’s immortal story.
The show is created by Teatro Vivo, a theatre company of writers, musicians and actors using different public areas to create a uniquely South London Alice in Wonderland.
They have performed in libraries, parks, cafes and supermarkets and let audiences create their own interactive and hyperactive experience of the Victorian classic, which was performed in Catford’s Broadway Theatre last year.
This time before each show, we volunteer stewards get ready for the audience by washing up the antique glasses for lemonade, and finding fresh packets of jammy dodgers, as an updated version of Carroll’s famous jam tarts. We set up all the props including marmalade jars varying in size from tiny to huge, a three-foot gold key, the White Knight’s steed (a minute hobbyhorse) and tiny playdough figurines the previous audience created.
We show our allegiance to the Queen of Hearts by painting red hearts on our faces, wearing our hearts outfits, and saluting enthusiastically whenever she enters the room or is mentioned.
Finally, we are ready to welcome the audience to Charlton House for a return to 1865.
The audience has gathered in the cafe full of picnic-themed delicacies, including red love heart cakes, and teapots full of every type of tea you could ever want.
They are divided up into card suits of hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades with a card from each pinned on distinguish them, and are ready to dive down the rabbithole.
From here, we volunteers escort the four groups on a journey throughout the Jacobean mansion, as Carroll’s characters run amok, creating a unique play each time.
Each of the 300 guests had a slightly different, surreal wander through the Carrollian creations, as they re-enact his famous scenes and games.
They may find themselves in the famous pool of tears, having water dropped on their heads, or eating bread and butter at the Mad Hatter’s tea party in the huge banquet room.
They can stand in as croquet hoops in a game with the terrifying Queen of Hearts (Natasha Magigi) – with human croquet balls – or taking Alice’s place in the witness box in front of a full jury.
As Alice found out in 1865, anything can happen - and probably will.
As the show progresses, we volunteers try to keep up with the actors' flights of fancy, whether they are leading a rousing chorus of Soup of the Evening as the Mock Turtle or sliding down the stairs in a swimsuit and an inflatable ring (as a waterdwelling reptile, they obviously can’t stand upright).
We shepherd the audience around the huge building and into the beautiful gardens as Alice did, surrounded by Easter eggs labelled 'Eat Me', cryptic messages in mirror writing, and playdough to create any creatures of Wonderland they wish.
Their task is to collect different pieces of a cardboard model of the Cheshire Cat as they go along by interacting with the characters.
They might offer the Caterpillar a glass of lemonade, draw “everything that begins with M” (in the famous words of the Dormouse), or get involved in the fight between Tweedledee and Tweedledum by holding their massive umbrella.
Teatro Vivo have created a cross between a Carrollian treasure hunt, a mad choir, and a boisterous masquerade ball, and the audience loves it.
It’s as unpredictable, creative, and crazy as Alice’s original journey, and the atmospheric location adds to the air of surreal humour, song and dance.
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