Down the Rabbit Hole at the Drama Barn

It’s time to leave, but Alice insists on staying. Alone in the toilets and not wanting the good times to end, she tries white rabbit (LSD) for the first time.

After being ID’d and frisked, I made my way through a dark stage designed by Annie Camp that had a large white rabbit on half of the stage floor and words and phrases beaming off the walls. Down the rabbit hole, a student written play by Joe Willis, is set in the ladies toilets of the rabbit hole, a grotty club where Alice (Tara Geraghty) is out with friends, most of whom have had too much to drink. It’s time to leave, but Alice insists on staying. Alone in the toilets and not wanting the good times to end, she tries white rabbit (LSD) for the first time. Through repeated hallucinations of her mother (Hannah Forsyth) the audience comes to understand Alice and her unresolved issues. The play – taking inspiration from Alice in wonderland and arguably could be a modernized version of it – deals with the theme of escapism through drugs and partying.

With every seat in the house taken, it was refreshing to find the actors not shying away from actively engaging with the audience, on one occasion Alice sits on an audience members lap before clambering through a few more rows of people, seemingly on top of the world before she is called to attention by a hallucinated old teacher, Mr. Andrews (Tomas Frazer). An escapee gimp (Bob Horton) hides safely in the audience but continues to be present onstage with some intelligent directing (Joe Willis and Vicente Magahlaes). On stage, Alice’s state of mind is not always convincing and the lack of believability sometimes made it difficult to fully engage. Saying that, many of the scenes – in one the use of a kitchen utensil banging against a pot whilst Mr. Andrews menacingly restated her worthlessness – forcefully characterise the terrifying and vivid hallucinations Alice is going through, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind of the reality of her experiences, which on more than one occasion sent chills through my body.

There were so many mini-stories within the play that remembering and keeping up with everything had a whirling effect on my mind, which helped understand some of the mysteries of Alice’s LSD trip.

Although extremely funny throughout, the script was lacking in a few sections. It seemed like words were sometimes used wastefully, having no intrinsic purpose to the plotline and adding no extra colour to the play. The art of subtly could have been used to better effect; some scenes were spoilers in their own right, directly speaking about escapism through drugs, which I felt didn’t need to be said explicitly but could have been shown through the unfolding of the play. Granted, it wasn’t faultless, parts of the script and direction were masterfully carried out. With an unusually large cast, each character brought something new, with groups of characters completely changing the direction and tone of Alice’s night. There were so many mini-stories within the play that remembering and keeping up with everything had a whirling effect on my mind, which helped understand some of the mysteries of Alice’s LSD trip. The many different characters and plot changes created a constant comedic effect, keeping the audience on their toes and the laughter flowing throughout. Finally, the display of thoughts plaguing Alice’s mind was well choreographed, the use of lights and extra characters to recreate a totally internal phenomenon.

A special mention should go to costumes (Jenny Anderton), which were fantastically chosen and contrasted between characters. Characters personalities seemed tied to their attire (helping visually), as well as creating a surreal atmosphere to heighten Alice’s experience. My two favourite performances came from the queen of hearts (Samantha Finley) and Hatter (Marcus Crabb). Both were not only energetic and eccentric (Two qualities I can’t deny to be attracted to) but also showed a level of versatility and ability to shape scenes. This does not detract from any of the other performances, which overall were of a very high standard. All characters, whether large or small parts, created something together that no one performer could do alone. The dynamic of the play was perhaps its most attractive feature.

I can’t recommend going to see Down the rabbit hole highly enough. Not only is it a great display of student writing and performances but also discusses and resolves an issue that everyone at university and more generally, within the adult world, will face and must overcome. This play is showing at the drama barn until Sunday, don’t miss the opportunity to go see it!

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