Meet The Queen of Today!

I’ve been cast at the Queen of Today. At this point in the production process I’ve had a discussion with the director, Dominic, about my character. To help me develop my character, I’ve decided to write this blog post from her perspective. So, please, let me introduce to you, The Queen of Today!

Greetings to you all, my beautiful friends!   My name is The Queen of Today. I thought it would be lovely to write to you  and tell you a little about myself, before we finally meet in Wonderland this  Christmas.  I was born in a faraway land, to a family of magic and of many girls! I am  one of thirteen sisters, and from a young age we all spent many a night  learning the ways of magic. I'm sure you know of my sisters; we have all  since grown up to become quite well renowned in the magical kingdoms.  One of my sisters, Glinda, made her way to the Munchkin Country of Oz.  I visited her not so long ago, and my, what a powerful Good Witch she has  grown up to be! Another of my sisters, who often played with frost magic as  a child, is now The Snow Queen. I’m sure there isn’t a tale told in which one  of my sisters hasn’t played her part, for good or…otherwise.  But enough about them, “What about you, oh beautiful one?” I hear you  ask. Well, I made my way here, to Wonderland, where I am crowned the  Queen of Today. I've been made to feel so welcome by the Wonderlanders,  however, I am not the only queen here; there is another, the Queen of  Hearts. Perhaps you’ll meet her too.  I should warn you however; my Wonderland is not what it once was, nor  am I for that matter. A great power has spread over the land and we are  caught in an eternal winter. It is cold and time has been meddled with. I  have heard whisper of the villainous Jack Frost and Icy Jill. There have also  been whisperings, however, of a hero! A hero I hope will come and save us  from this winter and bring Wonderland back to its former glory.  It will be a great pleasure to welcome you to Wonderland this Christmas.  I cannot wait to see you. Until then, I bid you farewell.    Stay Wonderful! The Queen of Today.
A letter from The Queen of Today, by Jack Tullin.

Jack Tullin, playing The Queen of Today.

Meet Alice!


When I saw I was playing Alice I couldn’t quite believe it! I screamed the house down even though it was 10am (sorry neighbours!) but in all seriousness I was overwhelmed and humbled to be chosen as Alice, and to be a part of what is going to be a truly magical and amazing show with an equally amazing cast and crew.


So the first thing I did that day was I bought the original book by Lewis Carroll to see how she was portrayed. I think everyone has this image in their head of what Alice should look like; a dainty girl with blonde hair. Actually on the contrary, after reading the book I felt that at times she can be quite an assertive and fiery character who knows what she wants. Of course, there are also times where she is unsure what to do, I mean, what would you do if you landed in a strange wonderland after falling down a rabbit hole? But she meets so many extraordinary characters on the way and the originality of each character is really endearing to the reader, and this will translate to the stage as well.


I also feel like I can put my own individual spin on Alice, to show everyone that no matter who you are, what you look like, what you can or can’t do (even if you are in an unusual situation, like being in wonderland?!) that you have the power to overcome difficult problems.


I am beyond excited to start the rehearsal process, and to see the cast and crew come together to make a spell bounding Christmas show that people of all ages will enjoy. My costume is quite traditional in reference to the original book with the blue dress and white apron but again it has taken its own spin on it…if you have seen the poster…I am wearing stripy tights! The skirt is definitely my favourite bit, every girl dreams to have a full skirt and twirl around in it. When I first tried on my costume before we broke up for summer I couldn’t stop smiling! The costume designer Helen Symonds just goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations and the attention to detail is incredible…even down to the themed buttons at the back-snowflakes, rabbits and red hearts. Just wow. Wearing that dress certainly makes it easy to be Alice.


Alice's Adventures in Winter Wonderland poster, featuring Naomi French as Alice
Alice’s Adventures in Winter Wonderland poster, featuring Alice, played by Naomi French.


Anyway, that’s me for now. Keep following the blog to keep up to date with all the exciting news that unravels about the rehearsal process and show with a few surprises too! Hmm…curiouser and curiouser…


Naomi French, playing Alice.


Multimedia in a Winter Wonderland

Throughout history theatre has used technology in different ways. Early cinema also borrowed from theatre, and what is exciting about contemporary theatre is its ability to use a wide range of media within the performance space.


Working in the theatre space at the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre has enabled us to consider the performance space and all of its dimensions. This is particularly relevant with this year’s production of Alice in Winter Wonderland because Alice’s journey is about exploring new places and spaces.


Myk Hoyle and I will be creating an animated/filmic space as part of the production, exploring some of the magical elements of Alice’s story. We are considering areas within the production that lean towards other dimensions, and creative spaces. Along with the director, Dominic Symonds, we feel that Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole is the best place to start. This is where she leaves one world behind and enters another. Keep your eyes open for some updates as we work through this process together.


We are creating film boxes, rather like a theatre set box design. The boxes need to have removable glass walls and tracks on the base so that we can move the pieces in the set. Using this design we are also working on The Jabberwocky’s lair: this space is where Jack Frost is holding the rabbit captive. By using animated sequences we can remind the audience of this space throughout the production, and we can extend its expansiveness and it’s atmosphere. Using animation also enables us to bring another layer of the playful, the mystical, and the storytelling into the production.


Myk and I started with some initial storyboards. What sort of space is the lair? Is it stark? Who is present? What is the temperature?

Then we thought about items that might be present – we knew the rabbit was being held captive, how would we keep him a prisoner? And how could we use elements from the films to link with the live elements of the performance? We thought a good prop link would be to use a ‘birdcage’ in both the films and the live space.


We then considered how we would represent the cold atmosphere of Jack Frost. Taking some influence from the Brothers Quay (Stephen and Timothy Quay) we are experimenting with iron shavings. These shavings move in interesting ways, controlled by a magnet, and give the set a magical quality that we are looking for. We can light these with a cold blue light to create the ‘frosty’ ambience.


You will see more about this as we update this blog throughout our process.


For now, have a look at this short video, it’s a sample of frost and ice. It shows the vulnerability of the ice. It’s cold, but there is hope for Alice if she can make the frost melt.

Karen Savage

Composing for a Winter Wonderland.

I’ve had Dominic’s script for a couple of weeks now, but I started developing some of the musical ideas for the show over the past few months. Now I have real lyrics to set into songs and numbers. This first priority is to write the songs so that the cast have them by the first day of rehearsals. Once I’ve written the songs then I can start arranging them and creating the backing tracks. After that, and during the rehearsal process, Dominic and I will decide where we need underscoring and musical stings to accompany any action or media.

The great thing about using backing tracks is that I can write for a full orchestra and band without the players taking up half of the LPAC auditorium in performances; so I’m enjoying making Hollywood scale arrangements for our small theatre. The challenge is creating tracks that can be flexible enough to allow the cast space to perform. With that in mind, I’ll spend time with the cast on their interpretation then I will start programming in speed changes, creating loops for vamps, and splitting tracks for pauses and ad libs etc.

Once rehearsals start in September then I’ll be working with the cast, teaching them their music. I can’t wait for that; I’ll finally hear my music jump off the page and come to life!

In terms of a musical style for the show, I have pretty eclectic tastes and believe that for music to serve the stage it should draw on anything that enhances the performance. I’ve been inspired by a number of elements in the Alice narrative: transformation, other states of normality, the fantastical and nonsense poetry of Lewis Carroll’s world made me think of, among others, two strong musical idioms: The psychedelic rock of the 1960s and bitonal French 6th Chord, with its transformative nature. Alice is enticed into Wonderland by the cast calling her name spelling out the notes of the magical chord that can live in many keys at once and none in particular at the same time. Similar to Wagner’s famous Tristan Chord, it disturbs our musical equilibrium and invites us into an ever-changing soundscape.

The Mad March Hare and the Mad Hatter enjoy a crazy duet in a whirligig of psychedelia: cue Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds-like guitars and organs as well as a twist of Gilbertian patter song. Tiger Lilly and Alice have a playful duet based on word games while the Tweedle twins enjoy a slap-stick Music Hall number. I particularly loved writing the Pig’s Song. It’s a madcap world but as W H Auden said: “No [music theatre] plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.”

Mark Wilde, Composer and Musical Director

Writing Alice’s Adventures

Writing a new show is always incredibly exciting, and Alice’s Adventures in Winter Wonderland has been no exception.


We made the decision that this year’s Christmas Show was going to be based on Alice in Wonderland even before we had finished last year’s show, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. That show was a huge success, so we have a lot to live up to this year, and as such, the stakes are really high! One of the reasons we decided to write a home-grown show this year was to make the most of the tremendous talent we have in-house in design, puppetry, video work and music. Anyone who saw last year’s show will know that we really invested in the production, so it is great to be able to write a show ourselves into which we can weave as much technical wizardry, fantastic frocks and rousing music as possible. And because we are writing the show from scratch, we can also respond to the 24 students who are performing in it – they all auditioned around Easter, and seeing the skills they have has really inspired us to write dynamic, fun-filled characters.


There are plenty of characters that are recognisable from Alice in Wonderland  – the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts, for example; but for our production we have decided to go a little bit further in creating the world of Wonderland. In fact, our show is actually an amalgamation of Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass. In some ways, this is because Through the Looking Glass has more of a quest structure – it’s built around a game of chess, and Alice is desperately trying to find her way to the 8th square. Well, we are not using chess as such, but we are building our Alice’s story around the idea of a quest, and the 8th square (or our version of it, 8 o’clock) is a key part of that quest. So there are lots of characters from Through the Looking Glass as well: Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and even the Jabberwocky, providing us with the thrilling finale to Alice’s quest.


We have also made up some of our own characters. Every hero or heroine going off on a quest needs a companion (think of Frodo and Sam Gangee), so we have given Alice a side-kick in the form of Tiger-Lily, a sassy and street-wise hipster who helps her along the way. In this Wonderland, Jack Frost and his accomplice Icy Jill have kidnapped the White Rabbit, who is the guardian of time; so time has stopped and an icy winter has descended over everything. The only way for Alice to save the day is to jump-start the clocks again by making it to tomorrow morning. She has plenty of tribulations on her way, of course, but eventually… well, you will have to wait to see the show to find out how it ends!


So, look out for some of our amazing puppets, like those made by Myk Hoyle for the Jabberwocky and the Cheshire Cat; get yourselves ready for some of the wacky and weird costumes from the brilliant designs of Helen Symonds; look forward to some of the captivating video sequences being put together by filmmaker Karen Savage; and get ready to tap your toes to the music of composer Mark Wilde. All of these will feature in LPAC’s best Christmas show yet – Alice’s Adventures in Winter Wonderland!


Dominic Symonds, writer and director