Alice in Wonderland- Canal Walk’s Children’s Theatre

Where: Canal Walk Shopping Mall
When: June 24 – July 16, 2023 at 11 am, 12.30 pm, 2pm. Closed Mondays
Bookings: Webtickets or the box office on site at the event. R5 of each ticket goes to CHOC helping kids and families affected by childhood cancer get your tickets now 

Please note: No prams or trolleys allowed in the theatre. A pram and trolley park is available. Under 2’s, sitting on laps do not require a ticket

Alice in Wonderland 2023 at Canal Walk’s Children’s Theatre is a milestone production: It is the 21st anniversary of theatre for children staged by A&M Productions (Fred Abrahamse and Marcel Meyer) for Canal Walk. This excellent production features an extraordinary cast: Isabella Jane, Thinus Viljoen, Hlumelo Yawa, Lungile Lallie and Mamello Makheta. The set design and costumes are a wow- marvel at the textures of the textiles (The Mad Hatter and March Hare). There us breathtaking appliqué, Check out the magnificent ball gown of The Queen of Hearts. The original music and book (script) is a delight. Marcel Meyer said in a recent interview, that Alice is A&M’s “coming of age” production and it is a finely tuned marvel of madness and mayhem as Alice finds herself rolling through the Rabbit Hole to a place when it is always 4 o’clock and tea is always on offer. If we can just hold onto our heads and avoid the Queen of Hearts, we will be fine. The puppets are a wow: Watch out for the narcoleptic Dormouse puppet. There is animated audio visual footage – with mushrooms and castles.  More of the mushrooms, follow. Keep reading. The production runs until July 16, 2023, at Canal Walk – in a pop-up theatre in the forecourt. There is raked seating, with comfy chairs.

Isabella Jane (25) and already has two Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards) and she conjures up a flummoxed and delightful Alice. She won a 2022 Fleur Du Cap Theatre Award for best actress in a musical or music theatre show, for Star+Crossed- the original new musical, conceived by A&M and here she is taking on the lead role in children’s theatre as Alice. It is fascinating to watch her in Alice. Even when, she is not in the spotlight, she continues to act as Alice and gesture to the other characters.   Hlumelo Yawa as The Queen of Hearts, sports a deliciously clipped monarchical English accent (as in Queen Camilla – although we all know that Camilla does not speak- stiff upper lip and all that). Yawa riffs into stand-up comedy mode as she talks to the audience: “Off with your head and yours; no, not yours- you sitting with the green top- I like your head”. The Queen’s ball gown is magnificent – intricate appliquéd patched into a dress that one would expect in and a lavish opera production. On that note, A&M is currently involved in staging Cinderella- the opera- in association with Cape Town Opera, finishes July 8, 2023. They have brought an operatic opulence to Alice, with the dress of the Queen of Hearts. Again, it shows the meticulous care and tension to detail that the company brings to all its work – opera, musicals, Shakespeare, new writing – and to children’s theatre. Thinus Viljoen (The White Rabbit) and Lungile Lallie (The Mad Hatter and Tweedledum) are captivating. Lallie is another FDC winner for 2022- A&M’s subservice drama- Contested Bodies,Doctor James Barry, Lord Charles Somerset and John Nobody,

Talking of subversive, Alice is a story of madness and subversion and subverting realities.  Everything shifts in terms of scale and context in Alice. The design by A&M taps very much into the zeitgeist of our times and the fugue that most of us feel, as we tumble through this crazy world. There are times when the madness is fun and this production of Alice is very much a pleasure trip.

A revelation in this production is the audio visual design which was animated. Watching Alice tumble down the Rabbit Hole and there is a sense of us going down the hole, with her. Canal Walk’s high definition LED screen provides for crisp rendering of the footage.  I was fascinated by the proliferation of mushrooms and castles in the scenic design (beautiful drawings by Marcel Meyer). After watching Alice, I was amused to discover that, that 2023 is being tagged as the year of the mushroom and that the mycelium movement is being touted as a big trend in design and décor- with mushrooms popping up in décor, food, paint colours- the magic of mushrooms. I asked Meyer if this was an influence the fungal trend/thread but he says that he was not aware of the mushrooming of the mycelium movement or mycelium effect. In conceptualising Alice 2023, he draw from original drawings and other sources and you can read all about that here:

When we attended Alice, I observed many people in the audience who I would say are child-free. I have been posting on social media and have been asked: Is this production really for adults? Yes it is. It is a fabulously mad Alice in Wonderland. I applaud Canal Walk in its investment in Children’s Theatre. Partnering with A&M Productions, it has nurtured and instilled the love of theatre for young people, in the context of a shopping mall. I love that – theatre of excellence in a shopping mall. Over two decades, the season of theatre have ben bundled with donations to charities. Another reason – to say bravo to Canal Walk Children’s Theatre. Do not miss. Alice in Wonderland, 2023 at Canal Walk’s Children’s Theatre. We need fun, madness, the opportunity to be silly and play and sing. This production ticks all the boxes – for all ages. The lyrics are captivating and clever in referencing how are we are feeling right now and provides much to mull  over as the animated mushrooms, waft across the LED screen in a forest of castles.

Flummoxed: Isabella Jane as Alice in Alice in Wonderland 2023 at Canal Walk’s Children’s Theatre
Costumes: Note the intricate appliqued work in the costumes of The White Rabbit and Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland 2023 at Canal Walk’s Children’s Theatre. Supplied.

Images of Alice in Wonderland 2023 at Canal Walk’s Children’s Theatre – supplied.

Related coverage on TheCapeRobyn: