Start your pantomime season with Alice in Poundland at the Battersea Barge
Lots of cross-dressing and satire means it’s panto season once again. As part of the Annual Battersea Barge Panto, Alice in Poundland is just the event to kick off Christmas festivities.
Written and directed by Paul L Martin the plot has some ground in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, yet manages to free itself from the original storyline and create an up-to-date version of the issues presented in Carroll’s book. In fact, knowing the book or indeed the film is not a premise to understand the characters or their relation to each other in this pantomime.
The slightly psychedelic journey to Ashby de la Zouche begins with Alice chasing after a male bunny in what appears to be a stripper-like outfit. Subsequently she falls down a pothole and finds herself to be on some kind of techno party. All the while the bunny expresses his discontent with his outward appearance. His desire to be slimmer, fitter and better looking preoccupies the raver-bunny all throughout the panto.
Alice then has a brief, yet important encounter with Dave and Nick, who both claim to be Prime Minister. The Tweedledum and Tweedledummer allusion clearly hints at David Cameron and Nick Clegg. They inform her that a recession is going on and the Queen of Hearts, alias Helena Bottombiter, is taking over High Street with her infamous Poundland. The shop forces the competition to close down, because they cannot keep up with the cheapness and convenience of Poundland.
This, alongside other strange encounters triggers Alice’s quest for justice and as she goes about a lot of socially critical and clever statements are presented in a very surreal and abstract way. It isn’t hard to understand the discourses touched upon, because either the characters say it, like Alice’s identity crisis or issues keep showing up, like the bunny with his inferiority complex.
This panto calls into question matters like online dating, feminism, politics and even race, which are cleverly presented to the audience by the narrative.
After Alice’s journey in the psychedelic kingdom of Ashby de la Zouche, she decides that things have to make sense again and with these words the play ends.
The almost two hour long show with an interval never failed to keep the audience entertained. There were plenty of songs and even more chances for “awws” and “boos”.
Although the stage in the Battersea Barge was supposedly too small to host such complex theatrical scenery, the limited space was wisely used by enhancing the experience through light effects like using harsh red light to signify that Alice and the Queen of Hearts are all of a sudden located in a brothel the Queen owns.
This satirical pantomime inspires to inspect and question society as it is, while making the show highly enjoyable and worthwhile through music and interaction. The adult-only event abides by the promise to give a “very dirty, very adult” performance and thus fills the show with plenty of unexpected twists.