By Chelsea Moore - Arts & Culture Editor
Dawson Theatre’s take on Peter Hinton’s adaptation of Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland began with a cat, played by Vanessa Grace Aparicio, peeking her head through the closed drapes and addressing the crowd. The absurdities we have come to cherish in Alice in Wonderland were present.
The artistic choice of opening with the break of the fourth wall caused the separation between performer and audience to disappear, creating a collaborative environment. This collaboration continued throughout the play. Performers would emerge from secret entrances and walk amongst the crowd or call the front row into questioning. This deviation from traditional theatrical conventions was an appropriate choice, as it mirrored the way Alice in Wonderland challenges the metaphysical world.
Alice, played by Esme Steadman-Gantous, drove the plot forward with her existential questions about the nonsensical world of Wonderland. Embodying her character in its entirety, there was little separation between Alice and Esme. Alice’s mannerisms became her own as she effortlessly interacted with duchesses in rags, bodiless cats, and grown men corralling with time.
Whether in Victorian England, Wonderland or modern day Montreal, Esme captured the universal experience of questioning your reality as you grow up.
The general aesthetic was underwhelming for a production that is typically known for its exciting sets and colour schemes. When recreating an established play, there are expectations from the audience when it comes to the production value. Anticipating an array of original set design, it was disappointing to see the stage, which, for the most part, only consisted of 3 boxes, an outline of a house and a few hanging clouds. The set design, lighting and costumes did not adequately match the quality of the acting.
This play challenged the actors. Since the content was expected and almost predictable, it allowed the cast to experiment with acting as animals, playing multiple roles and accents. The actors were faced with the challenge of embodying snakes, birds, and cats.The roles were filled with dedication and vigor.
Alice In Wonderland is a complex play with psychological and metaphysical nuances. It is incredibly difficult to fulfill the expectations brought by the audience. The Dawson Theatre students, along with Director Jude Beny, adequately brought to fruition a play that explores life and the relationship between mind a matter.