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Review: Alice in Wonderland on a sunny Welsh night

On a Saturday night in sunny Wales (actually sunny, for once) I didn’t quite imagine that I would find myself sat in an auditorium about to watch Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass but that’s exactly what I found myself doing.

I can’t pretend that I knew the stories the best, in fact my limited Alice knowledge came from the 1951 Disney film and the more recent and even more vivacious Tim Burton versions of the story,

My knowledge of Through the Looking Glass was even more limited than that of Alice and I didn’t quite realise how many household stories and tales came from the 1871 book. I definitely didn’t know it’s where the tale of the Jabberwocky came from.

The performance by ROSTRA, an amateur dramatic society focusing around Bangor University students, took place across three hours, with approximately an hour and a half dedicated to each side of the story.

I also learned that what I was originally led to believe would be a play was in fact to be a musical. My first thought was that this was a brave choice from a society more commonly known for acting than singing.

The decision to make the play into a musical was definitely out there but the cast members sung with a smile and made themselves heard to the 50-strong audience. The use of song went off almost without a hitch, bar a last minute rogue verse in the final number. Then again we learn almost as much from mistakes as we do successes.

The first half hour was dedicated to Alice, I wasn’t too sure at first how this would work with such an obscure plot line, Alice seems to have a lot of visual aspects that always pose a difficult task for directors, such as how do you make someone change size.

The second half of the three hour epic saw Through the Looking Glass, another somewhat confusing story from Lewis Carroll and something that my futile brain seemed to struggle with on a heat induced Saturday night where most of the City seemed to be on a night out.

One notable thing with ROSTRA’s performance is that it was done with a smile, you don’t want to watch a performance focused around such “nonsense” as Alice would put it and leave thinking everyone thought of themselves as the next Hamlet. You want to see that everyone feels as though they finally got to grips with what might have been going on in the mind of Lewis Caroll.

In fact, as an audience member I got the impression that this group seem to generally enjoy what they’re doing, of course, if they didn’t enjoy it then they wouldn’t do it but their commitment and enjoyment of their performance came across in a lively play that, at times, had the audience bursting out with laughter, not a lot else I could really ask for.

I’m not normally a huge Am Dram person, my last theatrical outing was probably No Sex Please We’re British in the same room over a year ago. I tend not to get dragged along as I have a terrible tendency to drift away but this three hour epic kept my attentive side – even with Froch/Groves the same night.

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About Matt Jackson

Journalist and football fan. Once described as "politically correct to almost a fault" and "the worst kind of socialist". Always writing, inconsistently blogging.

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