AND WHAT ALICE FOUND THERE written and directed by Kate Cayley (Stranger Theatre). At the Great Hall Downstairs (1087 Queen West). To February 4. Pwyc-$20. 416-538-6084. See Continuing, page 80. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
If you travel down the rabbit hole in Stranger Theatre 's And What Alice Found There , you'll discover a curious blend of biography, social history and physical theatre.
Playwright/director Kate Cayley combines the relationship between Charles Dodgson and Alice Liddell with Dodgson's (aka Lewis Carroll ) writings about the girl he turned into a classic children's figure. Cayley uses three actors ( Simone Rosenberg , Christina Serra and Sarah Cormier ) to play Alice, her sisters and characters from the Alice books.
The production also relies on a puppet version of Dodgson, operated by Lea Ambros and Sarah Klein , and a smaller Alice puppet that's used less effectively. Videos draw parallels between Victorian life and Dodgson's fantasy creations.
Cayley and company cleverly trace the changing relationship between the adult writer and the child Alice. She was initially his photographic subject as well - there's not much on the possibly dark implications of that - but saw little of him as she grew older. The transformation of Alice from girl to married woman works nicely.
And there are some deeper, suggestive moments, too. The photographs of Alice don't change, but the girl does; who, she wonders at the time of Dodgson's funeral (which she doesn't attend), would want to see a middle-aged Alice?
The best of the episodes drawn from the books is that involving Alice, the Duchess, Cook and baby/pig. The mix of movement, text and lighting delivers playful fun.
Too bad that at times the actors are hard to understand, and that the stage lighting renders the videos occasionally indistinct. Both problems ought not to exist; this production should be more polished after nearly a year of development and presentation.