The Original Alice?
Normally theatre critics see a show on its first night and report on that performance. Pah! I say let others take their chances with the first night, wait until the show has tightened itself up with live audiences, go along on its final night and report then about something which no-one can see any more. In the case of Alice Cracked, I cry, “Ha – you missed it! You missed a great show!”
The final performance of this show at the Rock Inn, Rock Street, Kemptown last night, was one of the most interesting theatrical experiences in this year’s Brighton Festival fringe. Held ‘in the round’, we were led by Alice of Wonderland fame from one of the pub’s classic back rooms, into the
1920s Alice - When Hash Brownies Were Still Exciting
cellar (with its famous well), up onto the top floor, through the garden and back into the bar. Cosy spaces and a cast almost as large as the capacity audience produced an intimate work based on famous or notorious Alices through the ages. There was Alice Hall, a fictionalised character borne out of the music hall, Alice Liddell, the real life girl who was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Alice B Toklas, famous for hobnobbing with the Avante Garde artists of Paris and for her hash brownies, Alice Herz, an American anti-war activist who died by self-immolation at the age of 82 in a protest against the Vietnam war, Alice Young, the first woman to be tried and hung for witchcraft in the USA and Alice Orlowski, an SS officer and concentration camp prison guard known for her exceptional cruelty.
Guess Which Alice?
A nasty moment arose when an audience member was ordered to undress some dolls but thankfully she was paying attention and she refused. They were clearly symbolic of the Jews about to be murdered in the holocaust. With original and compelling music by the Looking Glass Orchestra (David Ingledew on the piano composed the score, Simon Walker played the violin and Elliot Cormack took on the guitar), we were thrown from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, at one moment laughing and being carried along with the swimsong journey of life and at another being awkward and reduced to discomfort. Having watched footage of the mass murder committed at the behest of Ratko Mladić only the day before, I found some of the points being made a bit too much but well made all the same.
Before the start of the Brighton Festival I applauded the appointment of Aung San Suu Kyi as the Guest Director. I also repeated the often heard expression amongst us genuine Brightonians about the Festival, “It’s not for us.” I was challenged on that and defended myself. However, last night I think the audience consisted of local people and the issues were as relevant for Brighton as they are for the people of the Balkans or Burma. Lots of respect to Josh and Ben at the Rock Inn for allowing such an experimental and hard hitting event to take place in their pub. They were never going to make money out of this event or win substantial new business. I guess that they did out of the sheer goodness of themselves.