Alice comes alive for a unique look at complex

Alice Through the Winter Gardens photocall, at Blackpool's Winter Gardens. From left March Hare Graeme Hicks, Mad Hatter Paul Duckworth, Dormouse Keddy Sutton and White Rabbit Emma Irons.
Alice Through the Winter Gardens photocall, at Blackpool's Winter Gardens. From left March Hare Graeme Hicks, Mad Hatter Paul Duckworth, Dormouse Keddy Sutton and White Rabbit Emma Irons.
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Alice Through The Winter Gardens - Blackpool Winter Gardens

As “buzzwords” go “interactive” is right up there with “robust,” “random” and “iconic” in the category of overused 21st century vocabulary.

So it’s understandable if you approach with caution this “interactive” combination of theatre, music, film, dance, design and, most worryingly, audience participation.

That’s a shame, because the idea of weaving so many genres together using many of the colourful characters from Lewis Carroll’s Alice novels to take a small but perfectly formed audience around the unique labyrinth of an architectural gem in the resort’s epicentre is a good – if rather strange – one.

Carroll would have thoroughly approved of the setting – every room visited by the promenading viewers (each tour is restricted to around three dozen participants) is so different and distinct, the author would probably have thought they had been invented just for his work.

One minute there’s the ornate opulence of the Empress Ballroom, the next the sheer quirkiness of the Spanish Room or Baronial Hall, next again the spartan intimacy of the Sir Harold Grimes room and so forth.

The trouble is that while everyone on the 80 or so minutes tour is keen to follow the loosely structured story line, what it all gains in comic characters it lacks in actual information about which part of the complex they are being guided round.

It’s certainly fun peering through opera glasses at the Queen of Hearts seated in the Opera House gods demanding decapitations all round, not quite as jolly trying to avoid eye contact when volunteers are being sought for the flamingo croquet match. It’s delightful being sung to by the Mat Hatter and friends or following the Tweedles Dum and Dee, a little more daunting forming a dancing circle whist the Red Queen dons her battered crown for some crazed terpsichory.

Youngsters will love the surrealism (and the warren like route), others may wonder where the tour guide’s gone (not everyone will automatically guess the Music Hall link with the Pavilion, or the Royal Variety one on the Opera House). But it’s a unique experience and the only chance we are likely to get to see so much in so little time.

It runs until Sunday, performances from 2.30pm today and Friday and noon Saturday and Sunday.