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The cast of Alice at curtain call on their Sunday matinee performance. Photo: Mikaela Lewis.

A Review of Laura Wade's Alice: Performed by the Anne Shirley Theatre Company

Written by
Mikaela Lewis
and
and
November 22, 2023
A Review of Laura Wade's Alice: Performed by the Anne Shirley Theatre Company
The cast of Alice at curtain call on their Sunday matinee performance. Photo: Mikaela Lewis.

This past weekend I got to see the Sunday matinee of Anne Shirley Theatre Company’s Alice.

Anne Shirley Theatre Company is Trent’s student theatre company and a levy group. It is student run, from executives and artistic directors behind the scenes, to the actors you see on stage. They stage two shows throughout the year, a fall play and a spring musical, as well as a number of other events throughout the year, including a Halloween interactive showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show and student talent show Trent’s Got Talent. This year they have also done their best to lower the barriers to accessing theatre for students through initiatives like pay-what-you-can days during ticket sales.

I was able to sit down with one of the directors of the show, Paige Nelson, to discuss the importance of these initiatives. 

“It’s incredibly important,” they said. “A lot of the people we cater toward are students, so we want to allow for people, for everyone to have the opportunity to come experience community theatre and experience other students acting and having fun together.” 

If you have not been to Nozhem: First Peoples Performance Space, it is an intimate black box theatre with the stage at floor level and raised seats for the audience. The effect is that no matter where you sit you get an intimate view of the actors. This production knows how to use this space to their advantage, whether that’s filling it with full cast tableaux or spotlighting Alice all alone on stage. 

Laura Wade’s Alice is a dark and comedic retelling of Lewis Carrol’s classic children’s story Alice in Wonderland, with a modern twist. Following the death of her brother and a stifling funeral with her overbearing family, Alice Little finds herself down a rabbit hole in Wonderland and needs to find her way home. The show is co-directed by Paige Nelson and Liam Hammond, with stage management by Izabelle Miranda. 

This was actually Nelson and Hammond’s directorial debut, a fact I got to ask Nelson about. 

“I have always been on the acting side, and then this year me and Liam were like let’s give it a go,” they explained. “It’s interesting, it’s very very different. It’s a big new set of responsibilities, but everyone in the cast has been so incredibly great, and a lot of them I was friends with before, because Trent Theatre is such a small community. They are all so talented and lovely. It’s been a really big learning process for me.” 

The show blends the trauma and grief of losing a sibling and being a teenage girl with the whimsy of Wonderland. It is also full of comedic moments that had the whole audience laughing. It balances the fine line of teaching a lesson without becoming preachy, and being funny without trivialising the loss the main character has gone through. The weird and whimsical world of Wonderland provides an apt metaphor for the way Alice’s world has been turned upside down in the wake of the loss of her brother. 

The whole cast was wonderful. Exceptional performances by Harper Caldwell who has commendably not lost her voice screaming as the Queen of Hearts every night, Tristan Cruise, who had the group of middle aged women sitting next to me laughing uproariously every time she was on stage, and Lela Fox-Doran, who perfectly embodied the moral grayness of the Cheshire Cat and Knave of Hearts. Credit also has to be given to Samantha Daly in the titular role, who takes us down the rabbit hole alongside her. 

If you are looking for something to do with your evenings this weekend get your tickets! You can also follow Anne Shirley Theatre Company on Instagram for updates about their events throughout the year.

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