Venue: Drama Barn
Down the Rabbit Hole is difficult not to enjoy. It’s funny and surreal with energetic, lively performances and inventive direction serving to create a wonderfully farcical ninety minutes. The plot moves from the absurd to the psychotic in entertaining fashion and in much the same vain as Carroll’s original. The more the narrative drifts from reality the more entertaining it becomes and, while the energy at times goes missing, the production achieves all the vibrant promise the writing deserves.
The set is particularly successful, establishing the mood skillfully. Neon graffiti is plastered all over the walls, framing the bedraggled bathroom stalls at the far wall. The appearance achieved is one of a dingy, desperate nightclub toilet. Discoloured and nauseating, it’s the perfect place to stage a drugs trip. A large white rabbit center stage gives constant, surreal reinforcement. The oppressive black box set-up enhances the sense of being trapped, with a tightly packed audience experiencing a similar climate to one in a nightclub. This is, as you might imagine, not altogether comfortable. Yet it adds a shared level of claustrophobia that works in the context of the plot.
The play was is it’s best when it stuck to being funny. There is little need or conviction in the subplot concerning Alice’s family dysfunction. Indeed, this is where the plot loses its energy and drive, slipping into scenes that could have been cut drastically or even completely. A concise hour would perhaps be more successful than the slightly labored ninety minutes. Alice, played by Tara Geraghty, is most entertaining when juxtaposing the bizarre cameos of her counterparts. This is the play’s comedic success; Geraghty stumbling through the peculiar and the absurd with quick witted, fast paced appearances bringing comedy throughout. In particular Marcus Crabb and Samantha Finlay, the Hatter and the Queen of Hearts respectively, stand out. Crabb is dynamic, achieving a level of absurd, camp madness rich with energy and humour. Similarly Finlay, charismatic and funny, helps drive the play to its conclusion without allowing energy to dip. Her cry of “Where are my tarts?”, referring to prostitutes, is a particular highlight. Thomas Frazer gives a memorable cameo too as the terrifying Mr. Andrews.
Directors Joe Willis and Vicente Magahlaes produce some lovely moments. The regular injections of energy from their cast are well staged but undermined by frustrating drops in energy. It’s not quite as tight and focused as farcical comedy needs to be. It’s a shame the show has a short run. Another week and it could have had the pace needed to make it first class.
That being said this is still a bright, witty and at times hilarious piece of theatre. And at four pounds a head it’s an absolute bargain.