It’s difficult to say who was the star in Olympian gymnast Camille Martens’ spectacular production of Alice in Wonderland.
The cast shone; the set stunned; the lighting inspired; costumes and make-up delighted; energy, precision and synergy overawed; and the sound (as long as actors turned on their head mikes) balanced the action perfectly.
The audience was pretty good too. Parents, siblings and friends of a cast numbering more than 70 acrobats and actors cheered, clapped and urged those on stage to even more elaborate feats of physical, visual and vocal gymnastics.
The fast-paced melange of colourful, witty images compensated for the somewhat obscure plot line and provided the perfect run-up to Christmas.
Martens’ inventive imagination and skillful direction encompassed age groups from adults in their 60s to children as young as five. She trained and choreographed the performers, selected and edited the music, designed and made the costumes –– apart from those worn by Caterpillar and White Rabbit which were created by local costumier, Lorraine Johnson Brotsky. But her greatest skill lay in her ability to inspire and enthuse while maintaining a discipline rarely seen in community theatre.
The work was professionally executed in every detail.
Dave Brotsky’s set was one of his best. It transported the audience from the reality of a videotaped garden into a magical world where five different heights of tables were rolled on casters to become stairs, bridges and ultimately, the ideal setting for the Mad Hatter’s tea party. He was helped with construction and painting by cast members and parents, and congratulations are due all round.
Brotsky also designed the fantastical lighting.
Favourite moments included the ultra-violet lit, totally life-like mobile Cheshire Cat (although I imagine him marmalade coloured rather than blue) and the whimsical opening of the second half where filtered light seemed to penetrate a make-believe forest.
Although the leading roles were well played, particularly by Kiah Ward as Alice, supporting artists also shone. Take the flamingo for instance: Jaedyn Andreotti’s left arm became the bird’s neck and head while the rest of her entwined Alice, until she was used as a croquet mallet to project two tiny hedgehogs (Amy Palmer and Isabella Haldane) through hoops made by brilliantly back-flipped playing cards.
Those playing cards stole the show when they danced. Their ensemble work was immaculate. A swarm of diminutive ladybugs, dressed in red tutus and black bowlers, stole hearts as well.
The director’s program note gave a clue to this production’s success. Martens wrote, “This rare convergence of gifts, task and energy is infectious; an upwards spiral where we are each building on the offerings of the others.”
And I agree.
She went on to thank parents and club supporters for making posters and programs, sewing, organizing, cooking, building, painting, promoting, and securing sponsors. (The back page of the program listed 134 sponsors – a goal to be envied by every non-profit society in town.)
Friday’s audience was grateful too, not just for Cirque Theatre Company and Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics’ excellent entertainment, but also for the fact that they’re based here in our valley.
–– Christine Pilgrim is a freelance writer who reviews the North Okanagan Community Concert Association season and other productions for The Morning Star.