Writer's Notes (Clive Francis)
‘... May we not then sometimes define insanity as an
inability to distinguish which is the waking and which is the sleeping life?’ -
Alice in Wonderland is a child’s struggle to survive in the
condescending world of adults. It is written as a nightmare; and a pretty
uncomfortable one at that. Scary, bizarre, strange and as phantasmagorical as
it can get. According to the Cheshire cat all the inhabitants of Wonderland are
mad. ‘I'm mad. You're mad’. ‘How do you know I'm mad?’ replies Alice. ‘You must
be you wouldn't have come here otherwise.’ The underlying message of Carroll’s
story is a rejection of adult authority.
What Charles Miller and I have set out to do is capture an
essence of Lewis Carroll’s lunacy –the dark turbulent side of his imagination-
and to bring the story to life in a simple clear entertaining way yet without
losing any of Carroll’s ‘stuff and nonsense’ and extraordinary descriptive
powers of storytelling. In other words, it doesn’t matter how outlandish and
eccentric the characters are, they mustn’t appear to be too comfortable and
‘chummy’; none of them are particularly nice people – attractive and witty on
the surface but underneath each one carries an underlying fear of its own.
The one character that they are all terrified of and one
that Alice stands up to boldly and unperturbed, is the Queen of Hearts. You
really have to feel she means business when she says ‘Off with their heads!’
ALICE: The character of the seventeen year old Alice is not
at all like what you would find in a typical children's book. Alice herself is
a bit puzzling, even to the modern child, as she is a quaintly sensible,
sometimes even pedantic, conducting herself with all the authority of a young
adult. She must never come across as precocious but as quite a serious girl
always questioning the logic of everything she encounters. When we first performed
Alice the Musical at the London School of Musical Theatre, we had a series of
Alice’s popping up during the course of the show. All the girls were of various
sizes which helped convey Alice’s sudden changes of height which happens quite
a lot. And then at the very end, for the final reprise of Wonderland, we
brought all four of them on together, breaking the song up accordingly to
accommodate each and every one of them.
THE CHESHIRE CAT: Is another whimsical character and should
be portrayed with a slow, lazy, Eartha Kitt like drawl! Depending on the set,
the famous grin can be made creating a huge cut-out mosaic of the cat’s face
which can fly in, or be assembled by other members of the cast.
THE CATERPILLER: In this version I’ve made the Caterpillar
an aging child of the 60’s; the only character that is out of synch with period
and time. A slight American accent or mid-Atlantic accent wouldn’t go amiss.
All the other characters speak for themselves.
Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland has entertained not only
children but adults for over a hundred years. The tale has become a much quoted
treasure troth for philosophers, literary critics and psychoanalysts; and I’m
sure will remain so for many years to come. There appears to something in this
extraordinary, beguiling story for everyone.