Alice In Wonderland * *
at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Review by Andrew Cowen

It was somewhere just into the second half of the show that my two youngest began to show signs of irritation. It was the punishing sub-operatic singing of Jill Pert's Queen of Hearts that tipped them over the edge and made them clasp their hands to their ears.

Before this it was a pretty evenly matched affair with flaws in the production being covered by the impressive sets and costumes.

In a straight swap with the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds (they get our much better Wizard of Oz from last year), Alice is the Rep's seasonal offering. You would have thought it would be hard to get it wrong.

However, it's very hard to recommend it to anyone but the most devoted surrealist.

Its main flaw is the music. The normally dependable Carl Davis supplies a score so devoid of tunes that you dread the arrival of songs. There are no show-stoppers, this Alice is far too sniffy for such low-brow concerns. You'd think that someone who had worked with Paul McCartney would appreciate the value of a proper tune.

The large cast do their best with the many roles and costumes required. Alison Pargeter's Alice is a pretty decent turn, doing her best to steer us through the rambling plot which loses direction after the interval. There's just too much stopping and starting to really draw you in.

On the plus side, the set works really well and technically, Alice hits all the right buttons. My two were initially enthralled by it, but the constant shrinking and growing soon got repetitive.

There's a moment at the end of the first half where a screen falls to reveal a rose garden which seems to stretch into eternity which is pretty impressive. Sadly, the second half feels like this eternity made real.

* Running time: Two hours. Until December 30.