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!
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.
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…
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.
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.”
As I type this, our new season brochure is at the printers and the shows will be going on sale shortly – it certainly is a busy time of year!
Following the success of last year’s The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, which played to a sell out crowd, we wanted to visit another magical land that appeals to both boys and girls. Because we’re exploring these stories at Christmas it also feels right to introduce a festive element to the proceedings, and like many great winter myths we’ve introduced a villain with a dastardly control of the elements – Jack Frost.
Dominic Symonds, our director from last year, is back in the hot seat but this time he’s writing the script as well. He’s done a really clever adaptation of the story, taking the structure of Through The Looking Glass and fusing it (or should I say freezing it) with Jack Frost’s plans to stop time and transform Wonderland into an icy kingdom. If you’d like to find out more about Lewis Carroll and the original stories, read Caitlin’s blog post.
Can Alice find the White Rabbit, defeat Jack Frost and get back home in time for Christmas? We’ll have to wait and see but I think, with our expert creative team on-hand to realise Dominic’s artistic vision, the audience is in for a real treat as we bring the play to life. Without giving too much away, we’ll be using the whole theatre for the performace, and I mean the whole space, right the way up to the roof, exploring the potential for flying actors through the auditorium…. It’s this flexibility as a venue that really excites me as a theatre producer, as it gives us a unique opportunity to engage with audiences in a way that is different to more traditional productions.
Once again we’ll be turning the space into an in-the-round theatre which adds to the intimacy of the performance and places you right at the heart of the action. It’s a challenge in terms of visual effects as there’s nowhere to hide anything, but it’s one our production designer Myk Hoyle is excited to get his teeth stuck into and we’ll be posting initial designs on the blog very soon, along with costume and make-up concepts from Helen Symonds.
Indeed, up until now it’s all been about the early stage prep work, but now it’s all systems go, as the cast start rehearsing from September (which will come around very quickly).
The cast is made up of final year undergraduate Drama students studying Theatre for Young Audiences, with the Christmas Show providing a unique opportunity for them to perform within a professional environment prior to graduation. They all auditioned for a role back in Easter and they really are a talented bunch. We’ve already had a photoshoot with Naomi French – who plays Alice – and I’m sure you’ll agree that she definitely looks the part already! You’ll get to hear from some of the cast about their experience on the blog once rehearsals start.
In the meantime do check back here regularly as we upload more sneaky peeks behind the scenes and interviews with the creative team.
I hope you enjoy following our blog in the run up to Christmas. Please share your feedback, thoughts and questions in the comments section on this blog.
See you soon!
Craig Morrow, Producer
Artistic Director for Lincoln Performing Arts Centre
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