Wonderland Review: Alice takes trip down the rabbit hole to Southend

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“I’m late; I’m late, for a very important date”… or work.

“Any chance you could grab some tea on your way home, I’ve just had no time to get to the shops”

“Where are my car keys?, where’s the car?”

“What do they have, that I don’t?”

“My life is so… UGH!”

Exhausted with life before it’s even time for lunch, thank goodness for elevenses – cake time – jam tart time. Yep. An escape from reality to a place where teatime is all the time doesn’t actually sound too bad.

If you resonate with any of the above then you’ll welcome a trip to Wonderland – a journey of discovery.

A classic tale made into a contemporary reflection of modern day life posing the questions, who we are and who we want to be.

Alice is a divorced mum, disillusioned and unsure on what to do or how to change. At the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend, the part was played by Rachael Wooding, best recognised as the loveable mum who wowed audiences with her stunning voice which took her to the live finals on Britain’s Got Talent. And here Rachael gave a fabulous performance drawing you into the journey with her. (The actress playing Alice will change depending on venue).

No sooner has Alice declared she doesn’t want to live in the real world anymore, up hops The White Rabbit to transport her down the rabbit hole, or an out of order lift in modern times!

Full of indecisiveness Alice only takes the leap to follow her daughter Ellie who chases the rabbit down first, attentively joined by her infatuated neighbour Jack.

As they enter Wonderland the stage is captivating, a cleverly lit tunnelled set accompanied by the bright spectacle of wacky characters and their costumes enticing you into this wonderfully colourful madness.

As Alice, Ellie and Jack journey through Wonderland, with hope of finding home they meet all of our favourite Wonderland characters that set them on their path of self-discovery. But the trio discover that a Wonderland ruled by the Queen of Hearts (Wendi Peters) is also far from perfect and they must help their friends from losing their heads too, literally.

A key point in the journey is deciding whether to go through the looking glass and change to become the person they want to be. Would you?

This lends to some comical and heart-warming scenes as we are introduced to Ellie – the adolescent she’s meant to be and Jack becoming the hero to Alice he desires to be, humorously backed with his own boy band. If only all our suppressed feelings could be set free with sexy backing singers edging us on.

Natalie McQueen, with her spellbinding performance as the Mad Hatter and a dazzling voice bigger than the hatter’s hat hits you in the heart reminding us we are all a little weird and just need to be loved.

Wendi Peters is billed as headlining but by virtue of the Queen of Hearts minute contribution to Alice’s journey, her appearance is unfortunately not as much as one would hope. However, when she’s on, she holds the stage for herself proclaiming ‘I shall now eat my jam tart’ as we all pause to watch her hilariously nibble it, bringing a fond quirkiness and acceptance to the Queen of Hearts and contributing stupendously as she belts out singing ‘Off With Their Heads’.

Wonderland is wonderfully weird, wacky and wise with an outstandingly strong cast.

A curious and curiouser thought of my own to Lewis Carroll’s characters of Wonderland – “off with their heads” mix them all up, and do we not have a little bit of them all within us?

Wonderland is showing at the Cliffs Pavilion from Monday, 13 – Saturday, 18 February. To book tickets, call the box office on 01702 351135.

BY TANYA MANCINI

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