Merlin Theatre Company, 5th – 14th December
The fantastic thing about community theatre projects is seeing a town’s youngest generations given their chance under the spotlight, and taking it with as much enthusiasm and conviction as those of the Merlin Theatre Company. The stories of Alice are timeless favourites, and this production showed the love with which they are still treated.
On the evening of Saturday 7th December, it was the turn of the Spades team, expertly lead by Holly McPhee-Clarke as young Alice. Clemence Dane’s script is very line-heavy for such a young leading lady, but Holly never missed a beat in her delivery, putting across a very smooth, confident performance. Well done! The second act sees Becky Hinde take over as Alice at 17-and-a-half-years old “exactly”. Becky’s clarity of speech and presentation were flawless, and her interpretation reminded me very much of the innocence of Disney’s original Alice of 1951.
A stand-out performance was given by Daisy Mercedes as the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen; perhaps one of the most professional performances I have seen in amateur theatre in quite a while. It would be easy to play these two particular characters very similar to one another – people often forget that they are different people in different books – but Daisy gave a strikingly unique identity to both, which is much to be applauded.
The set is also quite an asset to the production, bold and spectacularly eye-catching. The oversized garden flowers and the chess board flooring give the whole show a very surreal atmosphere perfect for the storyline. Puppets, too, add an extra dimension to really draw a young audience’s imagination, and Robin King’s Jabberwocky and Cheshire Cat deserve a mention. Shows like War Horse raised the bar for puppetry in theatre, but that standard is met on this small stage in Frome.
A step away from the traditional pantomime, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass is a great local Christmas show, and to be highly recommended as the holidays draw near. And it’s not too late to get tickets either – all information can be found on http://www.merlintheatre.co.uk/whats-on/performances.