fringe: alice in the madhouse

alice in the madhouse
I think that it's safe to say that Alice In The Madhouse by Victorian company Madhouse Circus was perhaps a little too much Madhouse, and not quite enough Alice.

In fact, literally... since Isabel Rose, who plays Alice, disappears for a big chunk in the middle of the show.

It's also not what you would call a polished show... it's still very rough around the edges, the performances have a number of rough moments, the costumes are a little rough in parts and there were moments where performers got in the way of other performers.

And the story, such as it was, was severely under-developed... and slightly confusing in spots... especially with a piece of voice-over dialogue talking about Alice sitting in the garden coming after a sequence where I'm pretty sure Alice had fallen down the rabbit hole (which was quite well done using a trapeze) and met the Cheshire Cat.

There were also some sections where I had no idea who the performers were supposed to be from the Alice in Wonderland story (most specifically the girl in blue doing tricks on the aerial rope... although I worked out later that she must have been the caterpillar).

Having said all of that, I could not fault the performers for enthusiasm and energy.

Although, to be honest, this is a show where I believe that the male performers are infinitely more interesting to watch.

And yes, that's probably because, as a gay man, I'm much more inclined to watch three very attractive young acrobatic men, however the portions of the show which contain predominately the three male performers, Cal Harris, Rowan Thomas and Will Meager (or as I thought of them throughout the performance Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat and White Rabbit... although they all played multiple parts) are the parts of the show that actually seems to have story, were genuinely funny, showed genuine character and actively engaged the audience.

From Tweedledum and Tweedledee and the giant metal ring... to the Mad Hatter's Tea Party (complete with electroshock therapy and audience participation)... to every instance of Meager as The White Rabbit (but especially the last appearance in a particularly Bugs Bunny/Crouching Rabbit Hidden Bunny interpretation)... to Thomas' Cheshire Cat inspired crystal ball prestidigitation... to Harris' amazing ladder walking sequence... they gave it their all and essentially left it all on the floor.

I won't lie though, Harris' "accidental" full frontal nudity didn't hurt either.

But there was something about Meager that just made him impossible not to watch, even without the bunny ears.

If Harris, Thomas and Meager came back next year with a show just containing the three of them, flipping, jumping and smacking each other around, I'd be first in line for tickets.

For the most part, I found the segments with predominately the female performers somewhat dull. Not that they're not skilled, but I think it's a little like what I prefer from a dance performance, it has to have some element of story or emotion, not just look pretty.

That's something I've found with both this and other shows containing female circus performers, it seems to be more about looking pretty while doing the tricks than giving me something engaging to watch.

And that's just not my thing.

Also, with the possible exception of Alice (and to a lesser extent, the Dormouse... although I'm not sure who played her), there didn't feel like there was a lot of character coming from the female performers... while the boys were all wild, crazy eyes and facial ticks, I didn't get anywhere near as much of that from the girls.

There were also some portions towards the end where it did get a little too chaotic from all the performers... there was literally too much going on on the stage and good tricks were lost because you were never sure where you should be looking.

This is a show in need of some degree of polish... definitely more clarity to the narrative... but it shows a high degree of enthusiasm, energy and no small amount of skill.

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