You might well expect Creation Theatre to pull off a virtual theatre event, given the gadgets and multimedia in some of their in-person shows, and in this reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s classic (a collaboration with Big Telly Theatre Company and charisma.ai) they do a decent job. Alice – A Virtual Theme Park goes well beyond scenes merely performed on a Zoom call, interacting with the audience in a variety of ways – some more enjoyable than others – each performer working hard to keep things moving along.
The Zoe Seaton-directed adventure begins intriguingly, requiring viewers to exchange words with the Cheshire Cat (before tumbling down a dynamically animated rabbit hole). It is the sort of audience participation that doesn’t embarrass you in view of others, though I don’t think the same could be said for later in the show – I confess to turning my camera and mic off after a while, a bit self-conscious about what the Queen of Hearts (Vera Chok) and other characters might ask of me specifically. It seems a Zoom show has both the power to subtly involve spectators at the same time as placing them centre-stage in full view of everyone – perhaps to an extent not often achieved in the flesh.
Viewers dictate the order in which they explore the virtual Wonderland, clicking where they’d like to go next after each scene. One highlight is in the kitchen where Annabelle Terry (cook to the Duchess) once again proves her ability as a comic actor, her brutal soothing of the Duchess’ baby injecting some dark humour into the script. Another is a game in which audience members use a second device to steer personalised hedgehogs under archways.
The tech wizardry gives new life to more traditional aspects of theatre such as puppetry, and a diverse cast accomplish an impressive energy considering the circumstances, with Leda Douglas bringing a likability to Alice which is needed in a story full of eccentric but not necessarily affable characters. Alice – A Virtual Theme Park is a tad awkward at times, but also fun, inventive and – boasting a magic trick at the end – a cheery way to enjoy theatre in the absence of physical theatre spaces.