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Alice In Wonderland

Published by: Kirstie Niland on 30th Nov 2014 | View all blogs by Kirstie Niland

The Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice in Wonderland is supposed to be a little bit mad but in Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s sweet and clever adaptation for the Octagon things get curiouser and curiouser.


Director Elizabeth Newman has teamed up with Michael Vale, best known for his wondrous designs for ‘Kneehigh’ and ‘Told by an Idiot’ to create this funny and magical Christmas show that has children of all ages smiling. Even the two adolescent rugby players and Dad who came to see the show with me.

The Octagon’s production is set in a classroom populated by the seven brilliant cast members who play all of the characters in the story, in between changing props which are inventively used: for example a stool doubles up as a drum and multi-coloured hoopla hoops become a butterfly’s wings.

Sarah Vezmar puts in a touching performance as Alice, who at first is too shy to speak up as she thinks she doesn’t know much and is too silly to be trusted with the class pet. And so begins the story, as Alice hurtles through a hoola hoop hole to find the school’s lost rabbit and ends up finding her voice.


This performance takes fantastic advantage of the Octagon’s arena stage. Floor tiles come up to plant the flowers who don’t want to be picked, and to create a beach for the Caribbean Turtle who tells us his teacher was called Tortoise because he “taught us”. The hoola hoop hole swings down for Alice to use as a trapeze before falling through it, and the rabbit’s fur coat comes dangling down from the ceiling on a coat hanger. The cast pop in and out of doors all around and scurry up ladders to disappear behind the racing clock. They sit with the audience, much to the delight of the children, and there’s lots of audience participation with everyone keen to join in. “I’m Alice! Who are you?” sings Sarah Vezmar, pointing to a bloke in his 30s, who happily replies he’s Tom.

The multi-talented cast are incredibly agile. If they’re not swimming on a skateboard through Alice’s sea of tears, they’re switching instruments, singing a cappella, making sound effects, or creating a noisy bustle as they set up a tea party complete with clinking crockery and fairy lights.

There are catchy tunes and plenty of laughs and lessons as Alice meets the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, and the Dormouse, along with Dum and Dee portrayed as rappers in red tracksuits!

The original songs are perfectly performed, and I defy anyone not to smile at the uplifting Metamorphosis and its message that it’s always possible to find a brand new me or you.

This is a beautiful interpretation of the classic Alice in Wonderland. It manages to bring the unexpected to a story already full of surprises. As Alice begins to bloom an important moral is revealed that all of us parents want our children to believe. That just like the white rose who was bullied by the Queen of Hearts into thinking it had to be red, you don’t have to be like everyone else to be accepted. You are meant to be unique and special.

So get your tickets booked at the Octagon Theatre and find your own real colours with this heart-warming tale for Christmas.

 Photographs by Ian Tilton

Alice in Wonderland will be at the Octagon from Friday 14 November 2014 – Saturday 10 January 2015. Tickets are on sale now, from £23 - £9.50 with family tickets (minimum 2 children, aged 16 years and under) available from £50. There are morning, afternoon and evening performances – find out more from the Octagon Box Office on 01204 520661, or online at Suitable for ages five years and over.



  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 3 years ago
    Thanks, Kirstie. This sounds like a wonderful version of the classic tale.
  • Kirstie Niland
    by Kirstie Niland 3 years ago
    It's a nice alternative to the Christmas panto, although I am excited about panto season!
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