Alice in Canning Town at Arc in the Park
Set in a sprawling inclusive adventure playground in London’s East End, Alice in Canning Town is the fourth in a quartet written by James Kenworth exploring the borough’s rich heritage and showing off the talent of its young people.
It’s a storybook-style full-moon night. Instructed to leave reality at the park gate, the audience enters into a twisting, towering playground that lends itself perfectly to a site-responsive adaptation of Carroll’s classic.
Alice, a young East Londoner (played throughout by three different actors: Sukurat Makinde, Georgina Ponge and Hazel McLeod) sits in a park with her older brother (Freddie Davis) when she hears party music. Following the sounds, she spots Rabbit Rabbit (Amy Gallagher), a talking Cockney rabbit – Chas and Dave’s song Rabbit blasts to announce the character’s every entrance – whom she chases down the famous rabbit hole.
After stumbling into the Underground, Alice meets East London interpretations of Carrol’s well-loved characters: a rave-mad Mad Hatter (Deborah Griffin), a hookah-smoking ex-Bollywood actor (Rian Perle), hipster incarnations of Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Ram Gupta and Georgia Wall) and an aspiring grime artist named MC Turtle (Abubacc Samba Bah).
Yet the London Underground natives are intense rivals, with each one vying for Alice’s affections and attendance at their party. With four fests to choose from, Alice is torn, and her patience is waning. Worse still, the totalitarian Ministry of Fun decrees that only one party can be held at a time – and the characters disagree on what kind. Tea party, or dance? It’s up to Alice to bring everyone together under one roof to celebrate, irrespective of past feuds.
A pervading sense of nonsense justifies any arbitrary plot-dictating elements. After all, we left reality at the gate. The play allows its young cast to shine – each character has their moment. Particular favourites include MC Turtle’s heart-wrenching struggles to become a grime star (rapping nonsensically about mice in warehouses) and Georgia Wall’s uncanny hipster version of a Tweedle, named Pandora (whose frightened run is delightfully comical). Kenworth’s script draws laughter and warm smiles from the notably diverse, promenading audience. It’s true, Canning Town is a melting pot of multiculturalism, and this is fun for the whole family.
Photo: Middlesex University
Alice in Canning Town is at Arc in the Park from 12th until 18th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.