Whitireia Performance Centre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington

26/09/2017 - 30/09/2017

Production Details

Follow Alice down the rabbit hole as she tries to remember who she is, helped and hindered by various weird and unsettling characters. And all the time the mysterious Black Knight increasingly makes his presence felt. What is his secret?

A visually inventive, dark twist on Lewis Carroll’s classic tale. The sixteen talented members of the Long Cloud ensemble perform excerpts from the original 1865 text augmented by quotes from Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Queen Victoria, Amy Winehouse, Woody Allen, Chuck Norris, Mick Jagger and others, as well as letters from, and interviews with Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) and Alice Liddell (aka Alice in Wonderland).

Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass are among the most loved books ever written. Characters such as the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee are familiar to us all. Written by Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) for Alice Liddell and her sisters the books are at once absurd, enchanting, and bewildering. But do they hide a darker secret?

Dodgson was a brilliant mathematician, logician and clergyman. His friendships with young girls such as Alice produced not only books but also photographs, sketches and paintings. His photography would perhaps now been seen to be bordering on the pornographic, the young girls often scantily dressed and occasionally nude. Recent biographers take these works to suggest that his designs on these children were not so innocent.

Black Knight Dreaming presents this mystery within a young girl’s journey through a dark yet wondrous place to discover her own identity and place in world.

The Long Cloud Youth Theatre ensemble have worked for the last few months to devise a series of visually and physically scenes that will surprise, entertain and intrigue you. This Alice is most definitely not for children!

Whitireia Performance Centre, 25 Vivian St, Te Aro, Wellington
Sept 26 – Sept 30
Tix at or on the door

Charles Dodgson   Ben Ashby
Alice                     Female ensemble
White Rabbit         Zora Patrick
Caterpillar             Jacinta Compton
Fish                      Mark Whittet
Frog                     Charlotte Tilley
Duchess               Breanna Ward
Cook                    Zora Patrick
Cheshire Cat         Dayna Rowe
March Hare           Rosie Glover
Mad Hatter            Mark Whittet
Dormouse             Charlotte Tilley
Rose                     Lara Strong
Daisy 1                 Breanna Ward
Daisy 2                 Gypsy Mae Harihona
Lily                       Jessie Weber-Sparrow
Firefly                   Michael McAdam
Fawn                    Jessie Weber-Sparrow
Tweedle Dee         Mark Whittet
Tweedle Dum        Gypsy Mae Harihona
White Queen         Brittany O’Rourke
Sheep                  Abi O’Regan
Humpty Dumpty   Angus Long
White Knight        Michael McAdam
Queen of Hearts   Ellie Scott
King of Hearts      Angus Long

Production Manager/Operator   Haami Hawkins
Director/Designer                     Brett Adam

Theatre ,

Worth a trip

Review by Patrick Davies 27th Sep 2017

Under Brett Adam’s astute direction and design, Black Knight Dreaming is a splendid piece of work. The company has devised “visually and physically engaging scenes” with text from the original Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass peppered with appropriate inserts and quotes from other sources.

When you do recognise the quotes there is the added depth they bring and the lovely smugness of being in the know. One of the delightful aspects is that knowledge of the other sources isn’t necessary to understanding the use of the quotes, as care has been taken to weave them into the narrative in such a way as to make them pertinent.  

On entry Charles Dodgson is writing at his desk, placed to the side of the vast open stage. He is all coppery metallic sheen (Costumier Jessie Weber-Sparrow) and places us in the era while adding a dash of steam-punk. Large white sheets are placed randomly on the floor and a large white cyclorama upstage, suggesting blank canvases. They could be writer’s pages that have been dismissed along with their ideas; writer’s block; or pages waiting to be written on. They will also be very effectively used as various aspects of the story, becoming storm clouds, birds, a house, ways to swop out Alices (more about that later).

This is a key (pun intended) aspect of Adam’s design – the story told using the material it’s written on. The food and drink Alice encounters is two dimensional and as pallid as the rest of the cast’s costumes. Weber-Sparrow reflects the blank canvas, the company in a uniform of Alice dresses which are whites and creams – virginal, certainly, but also naïve, awaiting colour just as Alice is awaiting awareness of herself and her place in that, and this, world.

There are eighteen vignettes covering Alice’s journey and encounters. Each ‘chapter’ involves a different female company member becoming Alice in various tricksy and delightful ways. Adam’s use of minimal props and costumes puts the focus heavily onto the actors and his direction. While the rhythm of the show could use more dynamics, perhaps the effect of devising chapters separately, together they have very similar feels. And there are some difficulties hearing some of the company on opening night but my interest never wanes. 

I have always found Alice to be a bit of a wad of wet paper. Perhaps it’s the archaic nature of her vocabulary, or the prim Englishness that Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) was poking fun at. In such a multi-coloured world of characters she appears so here. This is not a fault of the production at all; I think it’s a hard ask when playing the straight girl.

The company have a great time with the whacky inhabitants – Jacinta Compton’s Caterpillar and Angus Long’s Humpty Dumpty are highlights amongst a talented cast. Dodgson’s syllogisms and allegories are not for the faint-hearted and the company clearly understand the perverse and seemingly nonsensical witticisms, doling them out like candy at a party.

It’s not often I read the programme before seeing a show, but by chance I do so this time. Long Cloud Youth Theatre are using this production to look at Dodgson, Alice Liddell and her sisters’ relationship. Is this a child-like story or are there darker aspects to Dodgson’s infatuation, hinted at in the title? Had I not read this I don’t think I would have engaged with this question as a driving force under the production. And I feel the show clearly tells me the ‘take’ the company have rather than being put in a position to “make up your own mind”. In a post-Michael Jackson/ Neverland world (though I wonder if the company members are old enough to have been around then!), this is a wonderful discourse to be having and I feel a more risky work would have more effect on which side each patron might land.

Black Knight Dreaming has a lot going for it and it would be worth your while taking a trip with Alice and Lewis. 


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