Big Telly Theatre Companies virtual co-productions with Creation Theatre are getting “ curiouser and curiouser”! On Sunday I fell down the virtual Rabbit Hole into an interactive adventure which was peculiar but perfect.

Alice, A Virtual Theme Park is a piece if zoom theatre incorporating live actors, augmented realities (thanks to AI company Charisma) and some fantastic virtual escape rooms. This structure allows the audience to map their own journey, watch all of the action but they also get the opportunity to get on their feet and take part. It uses a lot of technical wizardry and magic but has a very clear customer pathway, so even if you aren’t the best at technology with a series of hyperlink buttons you are easily transported to the cooks kitchen, the Mad Hatters tea party and the main event a court case of who stole the jam tarts. To quote from the original Alice in Wonderland text this production made me believe in impossible things and “ it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” This is the future of site-specific theatre, no venue is needed the actors, sets and audience are all transported into your living room and it is a wondrous thing.

We begin the show having a quick chat with the cheeky and a little sarky Cheshire Cat, a fantastic way to liven up the boring zoom holding room and then on the strike of the hour we tumble down the fantastic rabbit hole swirling around a vortex with performers and participants until we hit the bottom and meet our Alice (played by Leda Douglas). She is the perfect mix of inquisitive, adventurous, brash but delightful. We are met with a screen which presents a lot of options of where to go next shall we eat or drink something delightful or like Alice will we find out there are consequences to our actions.

I jump in head first and come across an Italian chef (played by Annabelle Terry) having a little bother while she bakes some jam tarts. She is coarse but friendly and when she has to look after the “baby” the performance because very traditional and feels like an old school punch and Judy show. Her lullaby is anything but soothing. We also find out a little bit more about our adventure as the cook is the nosey type and intercepts some mail! Having found out as much as we can from this character we retreat back to the fairground to choose another button!

I jumped into a dance studio with the Queen of Hearts (played by Vera Chok) our modern Queen of Hearts is still mean and likes to squeal off with their heads but she is also partial to a little bit of a dance and a game of stiff statues. This was a fun participatory piece where we got to see a little more into the homes of each of the audience members and with animals and children included a lot of laughing ensued.
My next jump into the action leads me to the Mad Hatter (played by Darmesh Pattell) at his hat shop I assume. Here Pattell performs a beautiful monologue while the audience are encouraged to grab a hat and join in the action. The Mad Hatters Hat is an intricate affair as it is a model theatre with a proscenium arch (a lot like my work place!) the story drifts through his hat through scene changes, floating backgrounds and projection it is a site to be seen, a beautiful way to further the plot.

Finally before meeting back with the rest of the audience I visit the March Hare (played by Colm Gormley) who talks in riddles and has the most beautiful ears, he keeps you on your toes quite literally and had my heart was racing as I was summoned to the tea table with Alice, the Dormouse, the March Hare and the Mad Hatter. If I’m to be critical at this point we did get a little out of sync but there is a lot to perform and like the professionals that they are the actors bounced back quite quickly and so they should as time was running out.
After all we are late for a very important date announced but the sensible White Rabbit (played by Nicky Harley) who whisked us away to a Croquet match watch by the power of AI became an interactive game for all participants!! I won’t spoil the fun but have a tablet handy and make sure you design a colourful hedgehog!
And with a winner crowned we returned to Wonderland for the trail of who stole the jam tarts. Was it Tweedledum or Tweedledee (both played by Tom Richardson with a few theatrical tricks) they are the cheeky chaps who are anything but brotherly? Was it Alice? Or was I the accused??

You will need to head into Wonderland to find out, I’m sworn to secrecy but what I will say is that this is another masterpiece of digital theatre which I throughly enjoyed and I need a return visit to find out more about the characters I didn’t visit. And as I summarised on Sunday. It was a remarkable, peculiar but magical dream (perfectly fitting to the Lewis Carroll text).A rare remedy to 2020 fatigue. Imaginative and fun! Well done all!

Emer D xx

Go book your ticket now at Showings at 4pm and 7pm running until 30 August!