Alice in Wonderland, you may think, is not a promising thing to use as allegory for the horrors of the First World War. Perhaps you need to think again, for this latest offering from Bath Drama sets out to do just that. Set nominally on New Year’s Eve 1918 with a shell-shocked Alice freshly returned from her stint as a VAD nurse at the front, it quickly goes through the looking glass and into the familiar (to us) world of Mr Dodgson’s oddball characters. The allegorical link between the ‘mad’ characters in Wonderland and the madness of war, or the ‘madness’ we now call PTSD is not over-stressed. It doesn’t need to be. We get the point without its being rammed home; and the poignancy is all the more effective because of its only occasional surfacing among the otherwise comic, but slightly disturbing antics of all your favourites from the books. But to carry this off, you need a lot of chutzpah, some fabulously weird costumes, some expertly over-the-top performances, a willingness to change the mood at any time from crackers to poignant and back again, and the ability to stick faithfully to the ethos of Wonderland and still make your points (In one case actually on points: look out for the ballet sequence.).
Tight direction, clever script, versatile and adept cast of all ages, stunning costumes – this show has it all. Full of energy, colour and imagination, it is a hugely enjoyable evening and a cracking start to the new year at the Rondo.
John Christopher Wood